national Arts Festival Banner

Saturday, September 21, 2013


A glorious thing to end my reviewing duties at the 21st Hilton festival. (Review by Margaret von Klemperer, courtesy of The Witness)

“It is, it is a glorious thing to be a Pirate King,” goes the song, and it was a glorious thing to end my reviewing duties at the 21st Hilton festival with this hilarious version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance.

Gilbert and Sullivan die-hard purists and dedicated fans (of whom I have never been one) might shudder at the idea of five male actors and a pianist taking on all the roles of major and minor characters both male and female, chorus and orchestra, but even they might have been won over by this award-winning production. Of course it spoofs G&S, but it is affectionate. And anyway, they are ripe for the spoofing.

In what has to be ensemble work, David Dennis takes the lead, doubling as the hard-of-hearing maid Ruth and the Major General, delivering his patter song with aplomb and his usual superb diction. He also deserves a special award for quick change work – what must have been going on backstage as men turned into women and pirates to policemen almost defies belief.

It would have been all too easy for the whole enterprise to slide into chaos and slapstick, but Greg Homann’s direction is tight and the seasoned cast so professional that it never wobbled. It is hard to single out moments in what was two hours of disciplined mayhem, but the sight of Michael Richard drilling his line of policemen’s helmets in Tarantara! Tarantara! and explaining why A Policeman’s Lot is not a Happy One will linger in the memory, as will David Dennis’s expression when his hand encountered his ‘daughter’ Mabel’s (Clinton Hawks) beard.

Murray Todd as the Pirate King and Keaton Ditchfield as Frederick – great to see a new member of a theatrical family on stage – rounded out the cast in this superb, madcap romp with pianist and MD Rowan Bakker providing the accompaniment. . – Margaret von Klemperer