As part of their Christmas present, we took Lee and Denis to see HMS Pinafore at the Royal Auditorium at the Derngate. First stop though was ASK (the Italian restaurant chain), just round the corner. It was pretty busy when arrived just before 1pm, but as we’d pre-booked, we had no trouble getting a table. The service was swift and having explored the menu thoroughly, we were soon tucking into a mixed platter for starters followed by risotto for Ann and chicken for the rest of us. We were all too full for afters, so we left, taking the short walk to the Theatre.
We haven’t been to this Theatre for years and once we got to our seats, it was like getting caught up in some sort of temporal distortion (worthy of any Star Trek or Doctor Who episode) - almost vertical seating, no ventilation, zero amplification for the singers, a really low-tech set and an old plaster ceiling - rather quaint and definitely ‘of its time’!
The lights dimmed, the curtain went up and... the National Anthem played, catching out a few members of the audience (including us), who were expecting Act I, but instead, we were standing-up (through sheer peer pressure!) and singing (luckily, just) the first verse! We had definitely been transported back in time!
Our time-travel-trip continued with the performance itself. I’m sure I used to quite like Gilbert and Sullivan, but on hearing some of the familiar tunes - ‘When I Was a Lad’, ‘A British Tar is a Soaring Soul’ and ‘Now Give Three Cheers’ etc, it all started to sound very, very dated! Still, the audience, including Denis and Lee, seemed to be enjoying it, and as I looked round, I could see that as a fifty-something, I was easily the youngest there - by about 100 years!!! Oh dear!
How about the performance itself? Well, we shouldn’t forget that this was an amateur production, and although it was pretty good, there were a few significant wobbly moments - some of the voices didn’t quite hit the intended notes, and the stage lighting took on a weird random behaviour during a scene involving two of the main actors.
After a brief return to 2013 during the interval - and free wi-fi - we were then back in our seats and aboard HMS Pinafore for the final act.
Act 2 for me, was much better than the first, mainly down to the increased amount of humour, including what appeared to be a semi-improv scene involving the character Joseph Porter KCB and the Conductor - and a gun! There was also a scene where Captain Corcoran shouted (to the ship’s crew) “Avast Behind!” as one of the female cast walked by - “A vast behind!” (geddit?!) - and as soon as the penny dropped, the audience erupted into such uncontrollable laughter, I really thought there was going to be a mass incontinent moment! This was cheesy humour at its cheesiest! Perfect!!!
A few more wobbly bits of singing later, coupled with the ubiquitous happy ending, the curtain came down - and judging by the volume and length of the applause, the production was well-received by 99.9% of the audience. For me, the production just seemed to be soooo out of place in the 21st century. Anyway, as we drove home, It was clear that my interpretation of the performance was clearly in the minority and Denis, Lee and Ann had thoroughly enjoyed all of it - and then just as I thinking about how I’d write this blog, I found myself humming some of the tunes - including ‘Poor Little Buttercup’! Bang goes my street-cred (if I had any in the first place!)