The Pirates of Penzance is perhaps the most famous of Gilbert and Sullivan’s works. Its central themes of courage, duty and honour are equally lampooned and championed. The story is a light-hearted adventure filled with swagger and charm, armed to the teeth with breath-taking word play, and laden with tongue-twisting treasures.
The first act opens with a day at the beach – something that is very much a part of Kiwi culture. Our pirates are holding a twenty-first birthday party for Frederic, the youngest member of the company, who has also just completed his apprenticeship. As the pirates enjoy a quick dip in the ocean, a group of young women, looking for a secluded spot at the beach, stumble into the same location and a tense, territorial stand-off occurs. Frederic falls in love with Mabel, a strong and spirited young woman who fends off the advances of the pirates until the women are able to withdrawn to a modest beach hut under the protection of their guardian, Major General Stanley.
The second act concerns a plan put together by the Pirates to bring Frederic back to their company. Like so many things in our everyday lives, this hinges on a clause in a contract. All is not plain sailing, so to speak, and to complicate things further, the Pirates are not particularly effective swashbucklers, and quite foolishly sentimental into the bargain. The local constabulary are called upon to help defend Mabel and her sisters, but in true Gilbert and Sullivan style, they prove to be neither use nor ornament.
One of Wellington Comic Opera’s aims is to create shows with more contemporary appeal and a bit more of a New Zealand connection, whilst still retaining the spirit of the original works from which they are drawn. This show has shifted from the Edwardian era to the mid-twentieth century and departs from the grand operetta tradition to present a compact and colourful 90 minutes of wit and sparkle with all your favourite characters in a refreshed and more immediate setting.
This production is inspired by the great British seaside. Knotted hankies and rolled up trousers, deck chairs and sunburn, and an ice-cream dropped in the sand. The mid-century setting evokes a gentler time, when the British seaside was in its heyday. A time, perhaps, that Brexiteers would like to go back to. But was it as rosy as they remember?