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HMS Pinafore review at King’s Head Theatre, London – ‘an irresistible staging’

The cast of HMS Pinafore at King's Head Theatre, London. Photo: Robert Workman
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Charles Court Opera returns to the King’s Head with its small but perfectly formed staging of one of the finest Gilbert and Sullivan operas.

Led and directed by bass-baritone and G&S aficionado John Savournin, the company has an easy expertise with this material from both a musical and a dramatic point of view.

With a cast of eight and minimal doubling, the chorus is reduced – Sir Joseph’s sisters and his cousins and his aunts are in this instance singular, with the defunct aunt carried around in the form of ashes in a funerary urn. But Gilbert’s satire on the English class system still bites in a production that takes place on a modern naval submarine, cleverly represented in Rachel Szmukler’s brightly coloured set.

Vocal standards are high, too, with Sullivan’s melodies – alternately trippingly light-hearted and movingly sentimental – finely realised by everyone in the cast.

Philip Lee’s lean but forceful tenor helps him combine comedy with pathos as lovelorn sailor Ralph Rackstraw. Matthew Palmer’s snobbish Captain Corcoran manages to maintain some dignity even when reduced in rank. In his ability to maximise Sir Joseph Porter’s innate ridiculousness, Joseph Shovelton would be hard to beat.

Alys Roberts brings vocal distinction to class-conscious captain’s daughter Josephine and Matthew Kellett is thoroughly reprehensible as miserable killjoy Dick Deadeye. Jennie Jacobs’ Little Buttercup wins all hearts and Catrine Kirkman’s Cousin Hebe is delightfully daffy.

Every one of choreographer Damian Czarnecki’s routines goes well, while David Eaton maintains excellent musical standards from the keyboard.

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Charles Court Opera's irresistible staging of Gilbert and Sullivan’s nautical comedy