02 April 2018

MICF: Adults Only Pirates of Penzance

Adults Only Pirates of Penzance
BK Opera
31 March 2018
Kindred Bar
to 31 March

BK Opera. Adults Only Pirates of Penzance

Kate Millet and James Penn's indie company BK Opera are making themselves heard by taking opera out of traditional venues and stripping it back the intimate and personal.

MICF isn't the traditional festival for opera, even Gilbert & Sullivan, so they made their opera fit for the festival and created the Adults Only Pirates of Penzance.

I can't decide if it was the worst or the best Pirates ever (sorry ghost of Jon English). But, either way, I'll see what they do next comedy festival.

If you've been in a G&S opera  – who hasn't ?– you know all the naughty jokes from The Gonnorheas to "Every, every, every, everyone is now a fairy". It's not hard to make these wholesome operettas saucy.

For this AO version, the Pirate King wears too-small hot-pink sparklie short shorts and 70s bling. Frederick squeezes into black sequinned shorts; it's no surprise he's a bottom sub. The Major General's a woman – and likes the respect she gets when she pretends to be man. The daughters flounce about in frilly corsets. The Police Sergeant is a fey French man in a beret. The female constables wear zip-up pvc and are all legs.

And Mabel's a dominatrix. That sissy little Frederick can't be a wandering one if he's tied up. BEST MABEL EVER.

But I'm not sure why.

The conceit of being adults only isn't clear. There were moments of brilliance that balanced the love of the work with gutsy character and original interpretation, but it kept getting caught in between ideas and feeling a bit like the last night at choir camp.

If you want camp repressed Pirates who don't like yucky girls, go the full Are You Being Served eating-a-Mintie walk and don't couple them up with the daughters. If it's going to be all sex, put Mabel in real leathers rather than Sexyland costume mesh and make her tie Frederick up in ways that have him singing his safe word in a genuine falsetto. Be outrageous. Bring this opera into a world that it hasn't been in.

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