Review: Matlock G&S Society riding high in The Pirates of Penzance

Lizzy Blades (Mabel) and Andrew Moore (Frederic) in Matlock G&S Society's production of The Pirates of Penzance.
Lizzy Blades (Mabel) and Andrew Moore (Frederic) in Matlock G&S Society's production of The Pirates of Penzance.

Beg, steal or borrow a ticket to the rollicking romp that is Matlock Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s take on The Pirates of Penzance.

Updated for a modern-day audience, the production refers to Trident missiles in the Major General’s patter song, highlights the thin blue line of the police force and throws in a couple of Christmas cracker jokes.

The show at Bakewell’s Medway Centre opens with a motley crew of men wearing everything from chef’s whites to policeman’s uniform, football scarf to T-shirts stamped with Jolly Roger Re-enactment Society. They dive into the dressing-up box to emerge in pirate costume and engage in duels with swords and cutlasses.

Thoroughly modern maidens are represented as a group on a glamping holiday, all walking boots and waterproofs save for the leading lady who makes a spectacular entrance in skimpy shorts and super-high platform shoes. Her attempts to hook up with the pirates’ apprentice are thwarted in vain by the mature maidens who want the dashing young blade for themselves and form a human barrier.

Andrew Moore revels in the role of apprentice Frederic, who has served his indentures and is ready for life as a fully-fledged pirate until Cupid’s arrow strikes. His singing is sublime as is his characterisation, particularly in the scene where he’s trying to woo the ladies by stripping off his coat and unbuttoning his frilly shirt.

Lizzy Blades makes a very able Mabel, initially playing it coy then developing into a coquettish charmer who not only gets her man but also one of the best songs. Her beautiful voice really enhances signature number Poor Wand’ring One and she hits those high notes and trills with ease.

Pirates’ maid Ruth is given a Cornish accent by Angela Robinson, winning sympathy from the audience as she battles against the odds for young master Frederic’s heart.

Nic Wilson makes the role of Major General Stanley his own, throwing some fresh lines into the character’s trademark patter song and looking like an army chief newly returned from a tropical mission which was apt for the humid temperature outside last night (Thursday).

David Stokes and Liddy Buswell add to the comedy as the sergeants in an under-resourced police force, directing the flow of performers around the stage like traffic and wielding modern-day weaponry to bring the Pirate King to his knees.

Stalwart performer Max Taylor throws himself into the character of Pirate King with gusto - the first time he has played the part in many years of shows.

The eight-strong orchestra, led by musical director Melanie Gilbert, provide sensitive accompaniment to some of the best-loved songs in the G&S repertoire.

The Pirates of Penzance is directed by Nick Wilson, assisted by Liz McKenzie, and continues its successful voyage at the Medway Centre until Saturday, June 11.