Wilmas Rating *****
The Union Theatre
Running until 30th November
Sasha Regan and The Union Theatre seem to be able to do no wrong these days with a string of successful shows at one of London’s best loved theatres in Southwark. Yesterday I went along to see their latest show, an all male production of HMS Pinafore.
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 and HMS Pinafore could easily follow down the same route (having already announced a transfer to The Hackney Empire in February 2014).
Putting on a full-scale production of a musical in a cosy theatre makes it very easy to pick out the good actors from the bad. It can be a castrophe if you don’t get the casting correct because a wrong choice can stick out like a sore thumb. 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).
Ben Vivian-Jones shines in his role as Captain. His Movember moustache makes his look like a reincarnation of Freddie Mercury. Ciaran O’Driscoll plays the overtly feminine Buttercup perfectly with a voice that could see the worlds first ever male Christine in Phantom of the Opera! Bex Roberts is adorable as Josephine who falls in love with Ralph (Tom Senior) a lower class sailor on board the ship.
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, we are all equal human beings. It is not about how rich you are, or even if you are pretending to be a boy or a girl. At the end of the day we are all people. And love sees no boundaries.