The University of St Andrews Gilbert and Sullivan Society makes their regular contribution to the Festival Fringe, this year with HMS Pinafore. Performing at their regular studio location of Paradise in Augustine’s, the infamous centre-stage support pole serves adequately as a ship’s mast and with the wheel behind it and the sailors around it everything is set to ‘sail the ocean blue’. First there are some matters to resolve and love-knots to tie as dignitaries and families arrive on board.
Still jolly G&S and another opportunity to see an old favourite
There’s little point in dealing with the story-line. G&S fans know it inside out and the big attraction is the music which is something of a niche that some love and others can’t abide. If you need your fix you’ll see it regardless in much the same way that this company’s loyal supporters give them a full house every day, though you might be lucky if you book early.
Turnover can often be something of a difficulty for university musical societies. Students come and go and as they do the standard can vary. There is no guaranteeing the quality of the new intake. Currently, there seems to be something of a lull, with the chorus not sounding as full and rich as usual, accompanied by a piano that is not ageing too well.
Before anything else, however, tribute has to paid to Peter Sutton who performed brilliantly in so many outstanding roles over the years but who has now moved on (Oxford’s gain) leaving a large gap to fill. This year’s replacement did a fine job and duly entertained as the First Lord of the Admiralty assisted by his sisters and his cousins and his aunts. In the absence of a usable cast list names are not possible, which is disappointing but might be a relief to some. Captain Corcoran is assertive, but his performance as a singer varies considerably from song to song. Playing his own guitar accompaniment fell flat and provided no support to his struggling voice in Fair moon, to thee I sing. Humble sailor Ralph had some sonorous love-sick moments but as in previous years strained his higher notes. Josephine lamented her lot with feeling in a sweet performance that often needed stronger projection. Dick Deadeye combined humour and villainy with a solid voice and boundless confidence. Looking bountiful, poor little Buttercup charmed with her resonating contralto. Costuming fitted the bill, with a lovely surprise ultimately revealing itself on the Admiral, while the choreography was predictably naval.
The show is the usual fun but it rather lacks the sparkle, originality and vocal quality of previous years. For the many fans it is still jolly G&S and another opportunity to see an old favourite.