Setting sail with HMS Pinafore

Francesca Tyer attends and reviews Savoy Opera Society's main term show, HMS Pinafore.

Savoy Opera’s production of ‘HMS Pinafore’ set sail last night amidst a sea of laughter. Niamh Dunne did a brilliant job directing the show, successfully combining the heart wrenching with the hilarious.

Gilbert and Sullivan’s comedic Operetta is set on board HMS Pinafore. The story follows the plight of Josephine Corcoran and her forbidden love for the sailor Ralph Rackstraw. Tasha Crossley played Josephine convincingly, successfully conveying the false innocence of the character. The contrast of sweet naivety with awareness of sexual humour was delivered with capability. Will Maxwell brilliantly played Josephine’s unfortunate lover Ralph. He brought to the stage the injustice of their separation. I was particularly struck by his solo ‘The Nightingale Sighed’ in which the character’s emotion came through. The interactions between the pair were powerful and both actors conveyed the class issues at the very heart of the show.

The comedy of the show was delivered with skill and brilliance. Josip Martincic as the well-bred Captain Corcoran and Will Davidson in the role of the pompous Sir Joseph Porter were key to the comedy and their exceptional skill as actors shone through. I was told after the show that there were many improvised moments involved and these added to the humour. The witty jokes involving Brexit related the show to modern times and issues in a clever and amusing manner.

The show made me laugh one moment and feel concerned the next, keeping my attention focused right until the end. I was impressed by the high quality of singing, acting, and dancing. Jenni Tolhurst performed the sassy Little Buttercup with energy, receiving several laughs from the audience. Another notable performance was delivered by Matt Rainsberry, playing the undesirable Dick Deadeye. He delivered the part well, conveying Deadeye’s bluntness and realist attitudes towards society with skill.

The whole cast put on a wonderful show. Although the opening was a little hard to hear, the vocal performances grew more confident. The tunes were catchy, one of my favourites being ‘I am the Monarch of the Sea’ led powerfully by Will Davidson as Sir Joseph Porter. The speed at which the chorus delivered the lyrics was impressive. It was great to see a good number of boys performing to create a good balance. Two main figures leading the chorus sections of the show were Hebe, played by Melissa Fry and Boatswain performed by Enzo Buttazzoni. Both showed vocal skill and dance precision, alongside convincing acting.

The choreography, put together by Bethany Knowles, contained some engaging sequences. The moves were executed with precision and the cast worked well as a team to create finished performances. I enjoyed the comedic hornpipe dance alongside many others. The dancing matched the nature and time period of the show, helping to create a well-rounded performance. The band kept in time with the cast throughout the show, growing stronger after the initial opening. Well done to Harriet Mckinley-Smith in her role as Musical Director.

Costumes were also well suited to the time period of the show. The simple set was effective, the absence of many props keeping the show focused on the actors. I thought the stage space was used well, particularly the level between stage and floor. The positioning of Captain Corcoran on the stage above his crew highlighted the power divide. The same was done between Josephine and Ralph during his declaration of love, highlighting the barrier between classes. Most of the show was performed in the space before the stage. The close proximity to the audience created atmosphere and I felt more engaged with the show.

There were several highlights of the show. Tasha Crossley’s solos were mesmerising, and she conveyed Josephine’s true hopelessness with skill. Crossley displayed impressive range and vocal flexibility, delivering some exceptionally high notes with precision. Other highlights were the moments of interaction between Captain Corcoran and Sir Joseph Porter. Josip Martincic and Will Davidson were brilliantly paired and the hilarious chemistry between them won them the most laughs from the audience.

Many congratulations to the cast and the crew for putting together such a wonderful show. The comedy of the show eased the moments of isolation and heartache, creating a well-balanced performance. The cast performed with finesse, working well together. It was great to see new and old faces within the society, working as a team. Congratulations to the whole cast, crew, and band. Everyone’s hard work paid off and HMS Pinafore was in no danger of sinking. I can highly recommend the show to brighten your evening – I can promise you’ll be laughing.

HMS Pinafore is on until the 20th March in the Royal Holloway SU. Tickets are available online via the SU website or you can pay by cash the door. Buy your ticket before the cast set sail again tonight.