Wilton’s Music Hall, London – until 9 April 2021
Sometimes you just want to be entertained. Issue-led dramas, soul-searching and doom-laden productions are all well and good and can often be stimulating in their own way but it can be easy to forget that theatre is also a place to escape from “dull care” and just enjoy yourself. After a trying day (don’t ask), it was particularly pleasing therefore to unwind with Sasha Regan’s All-Male HMS Pinafore at Wilton’s Music Hall in the East End.
Shockingly, I had never been to this marvelous venue which is totally steeped in an atmosphere that must have prevailed when Gilbert and Sullivan’s celebrated operetta was first being performed in 1878. It was their first big hit and set the template for their many successes which followed.
While it hasn’t been around quite as long, this production has certainly done the rounds over the last decade or so but, in this latest revival manages to come up as box-fresh as some of the white gym shoes which are on display.
Set below decks on a second world war navy ship, the listless sailors decide to entertain themselves by playing out the original for their own and our amusement. This neat framing device not only provides an entirely practical solution as to why this is an all-male performance but also means that the ingenuity of the show’s production team and particularly designer, Ryan Dawson Laight, is highlighted.
With little more than couple of moveable bunk beds and items that might well be found dotted around a navy vessel (ropes and torches feature heavily) G & S’s world is reinvented and represented to huge effect.
The same applies to the costumes particularly of Sir Joseph Porter’s retinue of “sisters, cousins and aunts” who accompany him everywhere and provide the flimsiest excuse to have a “female” chorus in the first place – although in this iteration they actually aren’t – if you follow me.
These roles are played with utter conviction and manage to be clever, charming, convincing and undeniably camp; the cast are clearly having a ball and make sure that the audience does too. There’s an absolutely stand out performance from Richard Russell Edwards as Cousin Hebe whose physical comedy, posed attitudes and facial expressions sometimes threaten to upstage whatever else is going on – but only in a good way; the actor clearly just has funny bones.
‘A real cheerer-upper of a show’: @johnchapman398 on Sasha Regan’s @allmalehms. Finishes at @WiltonMusicHall til 9 Apr. ★★★★ #HMSPinafore #GilbertAndSullivan #operetta #theatrereviews
‘An evening of escapism, wonder & joy’: @FairyPowered on Sasha Regan’s @allmalehms, running at @WiltonMusicHall til 9 Apr. ★★★★ #HMSPinafore #GilbertAndSullivan #operetta #theatrereviews