Gay Bolton Reproduced by permission of the Derbyshire Times
Carnival day in Bakewell rounded off with a rollicking good show in front of a surprisingly large audience. On one of the hottest days of the year and less than an hour after England crashed out of the World Cup, I expected most people to be drowning their sorrows in pubs or at home. But the Medway Centre was positively buzzing with joie de vivre as performers washed away any post-match blues in a lively production of The Pirates of Penzance.
While our nation's footballers may not be the best on the planet, Matlock Gilbert and Sullivan Society set out to show why England is the envy of the world when it comes to putting on a first-rate production. Top-notch singing and comedy was delivered in bucketloads in a show which fizzed along at a rate of knots.
First-time director Max Taylor had promised a few surprises and he didn't disappoint. Several of the pirates looked like quintessential Englishmen in straw boaters - one even had a riding hat and a hobby horse named Fury - while the Major General's daughter wore 50s-style polka dot dresses and accessories. Max, playing the role of Major General, had adapted the traditional "patter song" to include a reference to Bakewell pudding and Delia. The nearest it came to football was a mention of Wembley, which was a little bit of a let-down given the dramatic events of the night but perhaps timing was against a last-minute rewrite of the song on Saturday.
Susan Devaney and Liz McKenzie provided the comic piece de resistance as the singing detectives, proving mistresses in the art of sleuth defence in their buttoned-up macs and delivering police speak together in a robotic monotone. And the classic With Cat-Like Tread was sung heartily, rather than softly, by the pirates, under the leadership of a bearded Eric Morgan as the Pirate King.
Nic Wilson was outstanding in his role as leading man and apprentice pirate Frederic. His diction was crystal clear, his delivery engaging and his outfit lived up to an "effective but alarming costume" resembling a cross-between Just William and a boyish-looking Scout master. Nic's duets with Lesley Kraushaar, who played leading lady Mabel and reached sky-scraping high notes with apparent ease, and Carole Pilkington, who played Ruth, were among the show's highlights.
Under the baton of musical director Melanie Gilbert, the orchestra pitched its playing just perfectly and the simple staging allowed the large cast to ebb and flow effortlessly. Last week's three-night run of Pirates even stole a march on the rest of the world the International Festival of Gilbert and Sullivan lands at Buxton later this month.