H.M.S. Pinafore

While it is laudable to have an open policy for membership of an amateur operatic society the knock-on effects can be dire as demonstrated in Cat-Like Tread’s production of H.M.S. Pinafore.

The cast no doubt had a good time putting together this show so beloved of amateur groups.

As ‘we sail the ocean blue’ with this ‘gallant crew’ all seems well. The male chorus is powerful. The problem arises later when joined by an inadequate chorus of the First Lord's sisters, cousins and aunts. His extended female family lacks numbers and in particular sopranos for the melodies to be heard over the booming bases and tenors blasting out their top notes. All choruses thus become bottom heavy.

Most soloists give the impression that a chest and throat infection has taken hold of the company, such is the almost universal level of huskiness. Buttercup is certainly made up to look like the ‘rosiest, roundest, and reddest beauty’ in the district but her earthy tones are probably too affected by the ‘snuff and tobaccy and treacle and toffee’ she plies. Ralph’s crumbling voice often missed the pitch of higher notes and on occasion he omitted them altogether. Captain Corcoran’s ill-fitting tunic did nothing to raise his credibility as a leader of men in a well-spoken but lifeless performance that failed to extract the humour of this role. He was matched by a fumbling Sir Joseph. Josephine brought some brighter moments to this sorry lot, but confirmed the thought that the whole score should have been transposed to lower the top notes.

The pianist worked hard throughout and kept the show moving. The step patterns of the choreography were predictable, though the introduction of mobiles phones for the dialogue between Ralph and Josephine was surprisingly innovative if historically out of place. The wardrobe department made an attempt at injecting some humour into the finale dressing Ralph in a kilt while the chorus proclaimed ‘he is an Englishman’. Very droll.

The cast no doubt had a good time putting together this show so beloved of amateur groups. The operetta however deserves better and there is little in this production for which to ‘give three cheers’.

Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

Your gallant crew is ready to sail, but secrets abound and passions run as high as the tide. The beautiful Josephine, Captain Corcoran’s daughter, is caught between Admiral Porter’s unfavourable attentions and forbidden love in the arms of strapping deckhand Ralph. As mutiny looms, can true love prevail? Following their 2014 sell-out debut, The Pirates of Penzance, local theatre company Cat-Like Tread return to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with this comic musical by Gilbert and Sullivan. With 90 minutes of spirited music, witty dialogue and clever choreography, the energetic cast puts on a fun night for all ages!

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