Last weekend I saw The Pirates of Penzance at The Point theatre. I really enjoyed it and it surprised me as I didn’t know much about the musical.
It is about a bunch of pirates who get involved in an insane plot to do with a Major-General. It’s a really nonsensical plot and it doesn’t make much sense, but in a musical like this it doesn’t matter. All the characters are really cartoony and over the top and they fit the tone perfectly.
There isn’t much talking in it, as most of the characters sing everything. However, musical conventions are made fun of. In one song, the pirates have a really loud song about sneaking around being quiet. It’s a really funny song poking fun at the fact that in musicals, people sing all the time about everything.
My favourite characters in the musical are the Police Chief (Mick Attwood) and the Major General (Keith Wiggans), as they are both really cheesy and over the top. They steal every scene they’re in.
The best song, of course, is the Major General’s song, which has been widely parodied and referenced. I mainly know it from the Elements Song, which has been played in Science lessons a lot. There was even a Doctor Who version in a Big Finish audio where the Sixth Doctor Colin Baker bursts into song –
I am also a huge fan of the Policeman’s initial song When the Foeman Bares his Steel as the backup policemen are absolutely hilarious in their facial expressions and actions. The songs all blend into each other really well and it is all performed in an incredibly silly manner. The song about sneaking around, With Cat-Like Tread, is also great.
There was a strong connection to my recent holiday in Cornwall because the play is set in Penzance, where I visited. When the play was written in the 19th century, Penzance was a huge holiday location and in the past Cornwall was a pirate stronghold. It’s interesting to see the connections with my visit, as the plot kicks off when the Major-General goes on holiday.
When I went there, the town did seem quite touristy and full of quirks. In this particular version of the play the story is set in the 1950s, when Penzance was a huge tourist town.
A surprising development was right at the end, when everyone stood up and sang the national anthem. It makes sense, seeing how the ending scenes talked about the Queen (which at the time when the play was written was Victoria) but it was especially meaningful seeing how it was Elizabeth II’s birthday last month. It was a powerful end to the play.
Overall, this musical was a lot of fun. It was hilarious and a really good time. It sparked my interest in these types of comedic musicals and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.
Credit: Images of the show are by Peter Sillick, via Eastleigh Operatic and Musical Society.
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