Review | H.M.S. PINAFORE (Hayes Theatre Co.)

Updated: Dec 7, 2019

Purely radiant in its entirety, this production by the Hayes Theatre Company is a queer, glitzy, gender-bendered rendering of Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic 19th century opera.

Staged at the opulent Hayes Theatre, H.M.S. Pinafore is a bold, brilliant modernization of the enduring comic operetta. All aboard the H.M.S. Pinafore for a nautical escapade that tickles our funny bone and yanks at our heart strings as it pokes fun at the farcicality of Victorian classism. The captain’s daughter, Josephine, is in love with Ralph Rackstraw, a lowly sailor in her father’s crew. Alas, her father intends to marry her to the high-ranking Sir Joseph Porter. What ensues is a chain of spirited shenanigans swimming in the waters of mistaken identity, misconstrued words and the daring to break societal convention in favour of love.

Director extraordinaire, Kate Gaul is at the helm of this stellar production. The binary is binned, spoiled rags are traded up for stunning drag and the typical turns atypical in this superbly flamboyant show that spectacularly fuses the original libretto and score with relatable elements of 21st century life. Winks to the audience are abundant as are nods to the volatility of the current political climate which collides remarkably with the one being ridiculed over a century ago.

The music direction (Zara Stanton) is imaginatively innovative: in particular, the splendid overture that immediately immerses us in this nautical world as the multi-talented ensemble play a string of seafaring ditties, adeptly supported by the exquisite sound design (Nate Edmondson).

Billie Palin brings an empathetic duality as Ralph, the lowly sailor, aptly solidifying the masculinity of the role whilst softening in moments of yearning for Josephine. Katherine Allen, as the Captain’s daughter herself, inspires as the commanding soprano. Dick Dead Eye (Sean Luther Hall), the drunk realist, is played with superb honesty and manages to hold his ground as the outlier among his shipmates. Rory O’Keeffe is memorable as the floundering Sir Joseph Porter, bringing a strong physical passion and charm to the role.

Distinguished in a league of her own is the one they call Little Buttercup. Thomas Campbell plays the bumboat woman with ease and grace and displays an unmatchable sense of comic timing.

Production (Melanie Liertz), lighting (Fausto Brusamolino) and makeup (Rachel Dal Santo) design have worked synchronically in the meticulous crafting of this show’s aesthetic. The costumes, props, striking make up design and the overall aura of glitz and glam underpin the vibrancy of this camp, colourful and vivacious new production.

For centuries we have lived and breathed in a world where convention- particularly social convention - has dictated our behavior, our actions, our choices and even the freedom of our heart. Through the dynamic shift in societal opinion and acceptance, most notably in the last decade, those who would have been deemed the most heinous breakers of convention are the characters now being glorified in this particular production. The theme of acceptance runs deep throughout as each element attempts (and succeeds beautifully) to subvert every aspect of perceived normalcy so we recognize that we need to open our minds and our hearts in order to embrace our truest selves and find a harmonious state in which every one of us deserves to live.

Venue Hayes Theatre (Potts Point), 11th Nov to 14th Dec 2019

Director Kate Gaul

Music Director Zara Stanton

Composer Arthur Sullivan

Librettist W.S. Gilbert

Cover Image by Harvey House Productions

Production Shots by Philip Erbacher

DISCLAIMER: This and all other reviews posted by A Millennial with an Opinion/JTA Official/Jessie Trompp are the honest personal opinions of a theatre-goer and are not reflective in any way of the opinions of others who have seen the production.

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