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Robert Ray's bright and busy, traditional production of Gilbert & Sullivan's HMS Pinafore is certainly shipshape. Ray is also a choreographer, and hornpipes and funny footwork abound, with dancing, prancing sailors and agile sisters, cousins and aunts all over the deck. Scarcely a moment goes by without someone striking an attitude or taking a twirl.
Amid opening night's hustle and bustle were some fine performances, especially Claire Lyon's lissome and lively Josephine, David Rogers-Smith's not-too-overboard Captain Corcoran, and David Gould's splendid Sir Joseph Porter.
Good, too, were Paul Biencourt's Yorkshire-accented Ralph Rackstraw, Andrea Creighton's blowsy, cockney Little Buttercup ("Poor li'ill Bu'er-cup!"), and Jodie Debono' stalwart Hebe. Roger Howell's Dick Deadeye shuffled and cursed appropriately.
For all its panache, I found Ray's production almost too energetic for its own good, with its more subtle moments swamped by the prevailing Force 10 conditions. But, I have to say, the audience relished it all.
The cosiness of the Athenaeum stage neatly accommodates Gregory Carroll's compact and witty set – an affectionate tribute to woodgrain – and just about squeezes in the lusty-voiced chorus and the plethora of excellent costumes, on loan from Opera Australia.
First-rate lighting, too, by Lucy Birkinshaw. This theatre is ideal for Gilbert & Sullivan, with never (hardly ever) any trouble hearing the voices and lyrics. Greg Hocking conducted a lively, occasionally boisterous performance.
The production includes several interesting additions, including a recently restored version of a duet between Josephine and Corcoran, and the original 1897 finale, complete with Rule, Britannia.
Reviewer Michael Shmith