Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S Pinafore sailed into Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre this week to the sound of resounding applause. It was Melbourne Opera’s first time tackling G&S, and I was extremely intrigued to see how this comedic opera would play out on stage.
For me there’s something so special about the Athenaeum Theatre, it allows for a much more intimate performance than some of the other larger theatres, and I felt the acoustics on stage would work perfectly for an opera. The story follows a lowly sailor named Ralph played by Paul Biencourt who falls in love with the captain’s daughter Josephine played by Claire Lyon. Claire is already betrothed to The RT. HON. SIR Joseph Porter played by David Gould, a gentleman much more befitting of her station. What ensues is a hilarious debacle of two characters quest for love.
As the curtain swept back, the first thing I noticed was the seemingly simple set design. Black marker lined various cut out shapes that were assembled to make a large ship cast which would remain on stage throughout the entirety of the show. Although the set design may have been simple, the costumes were the exact opposite. Our leading lady Josephine dazzled in floor length frocks that shone like diamonds in the light. Delicate lace and silks were common and measured to fit matched suits adorned the female ensemble. It’s safe to say costumier Lauren Ritchie did a wonderful job, as the various outfits really did impress with their intricacy.
The standout performance of the night for me was David Gould as The RT. HON. SIR Joseph Porter. He brought this wonderfully effortless comedic element to the performance that had the audience in hysterics. His portrayal of the well known ‘I am the monarch of the sea’ was truly wonderful, and the cast complimented each other perfectly in rhythmic harmony. I especially liked the chemistry between Sir Porter and his cousin Hebe played by Jodie Debono. They had some fantastic moments together on stage that were gleeful. I also enjoyed that the ensemble was varied in age, with quite a few more seasoned fellows mixed throughout, which definitely gave it a more animated appeal.