REVIEW: USS Pinafore by Richmond Operatic Society

Photo: David Smith.

Everything comes full circle in the end. Who knows? One day flares will come back in fashion and a teenager in Britain will decide not to have a tattoo. Richmond Operatic Society started with HMS Pinafore in 1924, having been founded the year before. So it was a timely centenary show in which the society put on their modern version of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic with USS Pinafore.

Directed by Kevin Murray, this was a comic opera romp through the ages, set on a 24th century spaceship.  Its humour focused on the love between two people of differing social backgrounds and was interspersed with mirth and much absurdity, mainly directed at the British class system.

Without giving the plot away too much, the ship’s Captain Corcoran (Brodey Laundon) was on a mission to halt his daughter Josephine (Victoria Bennett) from marrying below herself to lion-maned Ralph Rackstraw (Benji Wilson).

Pinafore, when it was first performed in the 1870s, was the work which really put G and S on the path to international stardom and you can see and hear why. It was a sensation back then as it poked fun at people in high places without the talent to back it up. But Pinafore also took a swipe at snobbery, politics and even patriotism, which in the Victorian era was a tough subject to criticise.

The modern twist worked very well and as musical director Adrian Bramley noted “The joy comes from seeing the familiar, much-loved show given a new lease of life.”

It was certainly that. The action starts as Buttercup (Freya Woodward) implies she has a secret, which Ralph Rackstraw then reveals to be his love for Josephine. But the Captain has earmarked his daughter for marriage to aged High Counsel Joseph Porter (Jonathan Heitler), who Josephine has no interest in.

But like a dutiful daughter, Josephine insists she will not embarrass her father by announcing her own love for Ralph, a lowly but handsome member of the Pinafore crew.

That’s enough of the chain of events as the second act reveals all. The performances were excellent throughout and the Georgian Theatre Royal audience were spellbound by a fresh take on an old favourite.

Josephine’s voice was a knockout. And maybe even a bigger bombshell than our local MP’s decision to hold an early General Election. Josephine’s star-crossed ‘lover’ Ralph could almost match Rapunzel for his cascading hair, while his singing was also flawless.

In the finale the crew sang ‘Oh joy! Oh rapture unforeseen.’ A fitting ending to a tremendous evening on board ship.

USS Pinafore is being staged at the Georgian Theatre Royal until May 25.

Click here for ticket information.