REVIEW: Pirates of Penzance in Torquay

Some may say that South Devon has more of a claim to the Pirates of Penzance that our Cornish neighbours.

The Royal Bijou Theatre premiered the production in what is now the Paignton branch of Woolworths in 1879, albeit as part of a scrap with the American’s for copyright.

Back then it appears the first performance was a bit on an impromptu affair to secure a British first showing.

This week's production by the Torbay and South Devon branch of the G&S Society at the Little Theatre, was by way of contrast, incredibly well drilled.

Age has not withered the production — it’s still nonsensical idiocy at its finest.

And if you could bottle the seemingly genuine enthusiasm and fun the cast enthused, you’d be a rich man.

The plot, to be taken with an open mind and more than a pinch of salt, follows Frederic (Chris Robson), the reluctant pirate.

Newly qualified after a gaff that made him a pirate, instead of a pilot, he points out to his colleagues that they are too soft in their old age, and someone only has to proclaim to be an orphan to avoid walking the plank.

Enter maidens galore, including Mabel (Julie Robson), and a bevy of beauties born to Major General Stanley, and it’s a battle to see if Queen comes before valour, and if love and marriage will eventually win the day.

It’s a fun production and a seemingly happy cast gave a lively, heartfelt performance.

Highlights included Alex Walker, as an incredibly strong Samuel and Julie Robson as a pitch perfect Mabel.

Allan Kingdom as Sergeant of Police shone through, and Andrew Bell was of course the very model of a modern Major General.

All the effort from the Jane Mackay choreography paid off, with the large cast performing in time on the small stage.

Costumes were superb and the set was authentically tatty.

Lovely modern touches, literal translations and surprises kept the audience on their toes.

The production continues until Saturday, May 31.

JONPAUL HEDGE