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The Union Theatre is proud to present

An all-male cast in






By W.S. Gilbert and A.S.Sullivan


Director: Sasha Regan


Choreographer: Lizzi Gee

Musical Director::Chris Mundy

Designer:  Robyn Wilson-Owen

Costumes: Sophie Mosberger

Lighting Designer: Steve Miller

Producer: Regan De Wynter


Union Theatre


15 July – 8 Aug 09







A review by Barry Grantham for EXTRA! EXTRA!


In this review I hope to employ criticism in its sense of ‘analytical evaluation’ but shall not need to call upon its other meaning of ‘fault finding’ and ‘censor’ as the present production of  ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ at the Union Theatre  is almost without fault. (I say ‘almost’ because there must be faults somewhere, though I didn’t notice any).

I am not trying to say that this production is something groundbreakingly original, or a seminal moment in the theatre; this is not the first night of ‘Look Back in Anger’ or
‘Waiting for Godot’  In fact it succeeds because of the deep understanding of its director, choreographer, and musical director of the traditions of its genre and it is important in setting such high standards of performance, production, singing, dancing, and indeed stage management. Here a number of traditions come together. Let’s first consider the ancient and honourable theatrical traditions of En Travestie and Drag, for this is an all male cast, and we do get the sheer fun of camp female impressionism. There is also that of the pantomime dame – this is a man in a frock - (Throughout there is little attempt to disguise male haircuts). Further the acting can be so good that there are moments of tender personal relationship. And then there is the extraordinary skill and even beauty of the falsetto singing.

The other main tradition is that of Gilbert and Sullivan itself. I think Sullivan would find the music and vocals well up to his own exacting standards. In fact I see him sitting up to listen rather than turning in his grave. In the choral work, the harmonies, the phrasing, the tone are as good as I’ve heard.

And what would Old Gilbert think? - Gilbert who wrote the lyrics but also directed and even suggesting the choreography. I think he would have been highly chuffed. We know something of his tastes. There are some D’Oyly Carte films extant that retain some vestiges of the master’s production, and there is his book ‘Bab Ballads’ illustrated by himself, showing comic characters in the eccentric poses he favoured in his productions.

And talking of comic characters, I’ll mention my first cast member, Fred Broom. As the Major General - the very model of a modern Major General - his first appearance sending waves of joy and laughter through the theatre. He is a very Gilbertian figure expertly handling the demanding lyrics. I’ll pause to say how well the production serves Gilbert – but also how well Gilbert serves the company.

The company is so successful as an ensemble that it is rather invidious to select out individual performers, however I don’t think anyone could deny the special eminence of Adam Ellis as the heroine Mabel – with an extraordinary voice, and a reticence that makes the intimate duets, entirely acceptable. He plays against a most likely hero in Michael Burgen of handsome aspect and sweet of voice. Dieter Thomas plays poor rejected Ruth in the panto dame style with an exact sense of comic timing and mimetic reaction. There is a vigorous Pirate King from Alan Winner and some wonderful character touches from Adam Lewis Ford, Dieter Thomas, Stewart Charlesworth, Lee Greenaway, Russell Whitehead and Benjamin James (as the Sergeant of Police).

Oh, did I say that at any and all, levels The Pirates of Penzance at the Union Theatre is hugely entertaining?




Venue:     The Union Theatre, 204 Union Street, Southwark

Times:      Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30 pm.
Saturday and Sunday Matinee at 3pm
No performance Monday

Tickets:   £8and £16 (concessions)

Box Office: 0207 261 9876 




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