All male casts date back to Shakespearian times, having been more recently popular during World War Two, in Prisoner of War camps. HMS Pinafore director Sasha Regan grew up in an all girls school and isn’t phased by the idea of putting on a single sex show (having appeared in many as a child). Her all-male production of Pirates of Penzance won the What’s On Stage award for Best Off West End Production in 2010. After a successful run at the Union Theatre last year, HMS Pinafore has transferred to the big stage, opening at the Hackney Empire before embarking on a 8 city UK tour.
HMS Pinafore is perfectly cast with no weak link in the chain. Mixing the testosterone filled boys and the effeminate girls (who are actually still boys). Neil Moors (as captain) is the polar opposite to Ben Vivian-Jones (who played the role in the Union production). Whist Bens performance was great, Neil does feel more suited to the character of captain.
Alex Weatherhill plays the overtly feminine Buttercup perfectly. Alan Richardson is good as Josephine who falls in love with Ralph (Keith Jack) a lower class sailor on board the ship, but lacked something that Bex Roberts brought the the role in the previous production.
I was surprised to see that the only musical accompaniment to the show was a piano. Playing in much larger theatre’s than the Union I would have assumed a full band would be used. However, it worked with just the one piece. If some strings were added, I think this show could transfer for a short West End run after its tour finishes but it feels a little bare musically (for the West End) as it is.
HMS Pinafore is a story of forbidden love between upper and lower class people. At the end of the show, the cast cleverly take off their hats, badges and other items that differentiate them from each other, showing that when you strip away all material possessions, and even sexes, we are all equal human beings. This message is not quite so clear on the big stage but I think the meaning still comes through (and so do his sisters and his cousins and his aunts).
UK Tour Dates
14th – 23rd
LONDON: Hackney Empire
3rd – 8th EASTBOURNE: Devonshire Park
24th – 25th NOTTINGHAM: Playhouse
26th – 28th CROYDON: Ashcroft Theatre
1st – 5th EXETER: Northcott Theatre
10th – 11th BUXTON: Opera House
22nd – 26th WARWICK: Art Centre
w/c 28th GUILDFORD: Yvonne Arnaud
WINCHESTER: Theatre Royal