‘In his nimble new production for Scottish Opera of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, director Martin Lloyd-Evans has delivered exactly what he promised – a fresh and vital slant on an old chestnut that neither settles for hackneyed routine nor corrupts it with needless modernisation. Much of that is down to Jamie Vartan’s designs: a kind of picture-book concept that is clean, suggestive, crisp and…part and parcel of the production’s well-tempered comedy…With the occasional nod to Monty Python, Lloyd-Evans pitches it neatly between the satirical and the absurd. Steven Page’s Pirate King has a dash of the Jack Sparrow about him, cheeky, authoritative, but occasionally caught off his guard. Rosie Aldridge sings Ruth with a gentle maturity. The lightweight innocence of Nicholas Sharratt’s Frederic simply exaggerates the wonderful strain of lunacy that ignites Stephanie Corley’s bubbly Mabel. Richard Suart and Graeme Broadbent bring a refreshing individuality to the Major General and Sergeant of Police…a great night’s entertainment.’
The Scotsman ****
‘this new production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance looks set to be a success for Scottish Opera. What great entertainment. First credit goes to composer Arthur Sullivan, often overlooked for his more serious works, but with the lyrics of Gilbert, a genius of musical satire. Which seasoned opera listener can help but enjoy the skill with which he pokes fun at the absurdity of this ‘high’ art form?...All the cast give strong performances, including the chorus, Stephanie Corley as Mabel is both hilarious and touching, Graeme Broadbent’s camp Yorkshire Sergeant is a hit with the audiences. The hero Frederic is played with fluidity and warmth by Nicholas Sharratt, and it is a delight to hear the insane patter of Richard Suart as Major-General Stanley’
The Herald ****
‘Opera isn’t often a laugh a minute, but this is comic opera from the very best proponents of the form, Gilbert and Sullivan, and as such it is seriously good fun. This new Scottish Opera co-production with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company revels in The Pirates of Penzance’s potential for slapstick and wit – while providing some glorious sets and a fabulous chorus…I can’t fault the cast, of which Pirate King Steven Page and Richard Suart as Major General were both excellent. The music, I should add, is terrific. If you are wondering whether you might enjoy an opera but have never taken the leap, I recommend starting with G&S. It’s fun, accessible, and brilliantly clever.’
The Big Issue
‘This new production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s silly satirical tale of swashbuckling, dutifulness, parental absence and the unhappy lot of the constabulary, by Martin Lloyd-Evans for Scottish Opera and the D’Oyly Carte Company, pilfers shamelessly from the catalogue of familiar gags from Monty Python’s Flying Circus in a blatantly successful attempt to connect with a modern audience…Designer Jamie Vartan and choreographer Steve Elias deserve a generous share of the praise for the production’s success. It looks stylish,behind its false pros arch, but at the same time I can think of few productions where so many of the laughs come from the stage environment…The orchestra, under Derek Clark, was crisp and bright and the central couple, Stephanie Corley’s Mabel and Nicholas Sharratt as Frederic pitched their performances perfectly…Even if G&S is not to your taste, you may find much of this Pirates arresting.’
‘Not taking things too seriously is after all the key to any G&S operetta and the cast here entered in to the spirit with gusto. The only character who has to conform is Frederic, the naïve, duty-bound and woefully conflicted pirate apprentice, played to perfection by Nicholas Sharratt with his cutlass sharp English accent. Stephanie Corley as the Major-General’s feisty daughter Mabel is also terrific with her over-the-top coloratura wobbling like blancmange…The other knockout performance came from Grateme Broadbent as the Sergeant of Police…Long-standing D’Oyly Carte member Richard Suart as Major-General Stanley also impressed with his zippy patter…the orchestra was in sparkling form with Derek Clark’
The Daily Telegraph ***
‘D’Oyly Carte’s patter king Richard Suart is a silver-tongued Major-General, hooting and braying his way into trouble, while Graeme Broadbent’s leering Sergeant of Police, bemoaning the constabulary’s lot, comes straight from the Ministry of Silly Walks…Stephanie Corley’s Mabel is top notch, nailing her coloratura…Scottish Opera’s orchestra was neat and game under Derek Clark.’
The Times ***
‘It’s a handsome production, set in sparse pastels and goofy cartoon cut-outs. Nicholas Sharratt is perfectly cast as the hapless Frederic – he’s handsome, articulate, doe-eyed and sings beautifully – and Stephanie Corley’s Mabel nails the high notes with playful aplomb. Graeme Broadbent gives a fine turn as Police Sergeant…the orchestra sounded bright and jovial under Derek Clark.’
The Guardian ***
‘Sam Furness as Frederic, the young man bound by an overactive sense of duty, was boyband cute and pitch perfect in every sense, with a voice both glorious and tender. And Richard Suart’s delivery of the Major-General’s patter songs was absolutely cutlass sharp. As the lovely Mabel, Ellie Laugharne’s upward-spiralling arias were spot-on, and Rosie Aldridge’s portrayal of the Victorian-era cougar Ruth was as funny as it was put-upon. This is also the ideal operetta for both the male and daintily clad female chorus line to really shine.’
The Daily Record ****
‘With visually stunning sets, a score played subtly and with expert skill, and a dramatic interpretation of the script that was high in hilarity, Scottish Opera’s Pirates set sail for a fantastic night of entertainment.’
Evening Express (Aberdeen)
‘Scottish Opera has absolutely nailed it with this production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s frothy piratical romp. Anyone who is put off by memories of creaky church hall productions or the desiccated death throes of the D’Oyly Carte should cast their cynicism aside – this production is intelligent, high spirited and completely engaging…Stephanie Corley steals the show as a bookish, bespectacled Mabel, imbuing one of Gilbert’s most underwritten heroines with strength, imagination and pluck. She makes sense of every cadenza in her first scene as she and Frederic conduct their sweet, awkward courtship, and her voice is glorious. There isn’t a single weak link in the cast but a couple of others stand out; notably Richard Suart for his expert diction as the modern Major-General and Andrew McTaggart for his endearingly Scottish portrayal of Samuel...Whether you’re looking for swashbuckling romance, witty, wordy lyrics or the music of an underrated composer performed with verve and enthusiasm, Scottish Opera has it all – don’t miss it.’
‘There’s a wonderful sense of play here, from Martin Lloyd-Evans’ direction to Jamie Vartan’s witty sets right through to Steve Elias’ choreographed clowning, everyone involved appears to be having a good time and it transfers to the audience…Nicholas Sharratt gives a fine rendition as the rigid and romantic Frederic and Steven Page’s Pirate King has a booming baritone and delightful glint in his eye to match the one from his sword. Rosie Aldridge offers a twinkly and saucy turn as the lovelorn nursemaid Ruth…The two standout performances are Stephanie Corley as Mabel, blending coyness and middle class grit with a mezzo voice you long to hear in meatier roles and Graeme Broadbent as the Sergeant of Police channeling both John Cleese Groucho Marx in his portrayal of the cowardly copper. Scottish Opera have had a busy year not to mention the previous forty-nine and they’re clearly enjoying this chance to let their hair down and if you go along so will you.’
‘it’s a real and rare pleasure to see Gilbert & Sullivan delivered – and with conviction – by professionals…Jamie Vartan’s staging makes a virtue of cardboard cut-out technology that often recalls Terry Gilliam’s work with the Pythons (just as Graeme Broadbent’s show-stopping Sergeant of Police owes a debt to Michael Paln’s diction and John Cleese’s legs), and director Martin Lloyd-Evans is happy to ham the comedy to the nines…The orchestra brings zest and precision to Sullivan’s fruity themes, while the singing is excellent – especially Nicholas Sharratt’s winningly naïve Frederic and Stephanie Corley’s kooky Mabel.’
Scottish Daily Express ****
'The central pair of Frederic and Mabel, both making their Scottish Opera debuts, worked very well indeed. Sam Furness's light tenor voice was perfect for the role and Ellie Laugharne had a lovely way with the coloratura, light and delicate while still retaining lots of charm. Their duet 'O leave me not to pine' was probably the highlight of the whole show...The other stars though were the chorus. Whether pirates, policemen or daughters, they threw themselves into their parts with aplomb and set the seal on an evening that was lots of fun.'
Seen and Heard International ****
'this is about entertainment first and foremost...If that approach was to be summed up by just one character then it would be Graeme Broadbent's Sergeant of Police, giving a performance so animated that it could have come straight froma Loony Tunes short with his slightly manic Cheshire cat grin and a rubber-legged walk that would give John Cleese a run for his money. However, it was just one crowd-pleasing turn in an evening that is full of them.'
'A sparkling and elegant new production...it breathes a welcome blast of fresh air into what might have once been seen as dated. It is a PIrates for the 21st century.'
‘If you are or ever will be among the G&S gluttons of the world, this co-production by Scottish Opera and D’Oyly Carte will be as a feast to a starving woman or man…Designer Jamie Vartan enters into the spirit even before the curtain goes up on the pirate ship…Several of the sets look like giant origami – stylish, unfussy – and scenery changes are accomplished smoothly and with wit. Nicholas Sharratt sings Frederic lightly and winningly, whilst Rebecca Bottone charms from the off as a coy, excitable but ultimately resolute Mabel…whilst the vocal performance of the night is surely Andrew McTaggart’s Samuel’
British Theatre Guide
‘this is a rare opportunity to see a very British phenomenon and marvel at its witty and tuneful generosity…It’s a big, stage-filling production, with large chorus and quite lavish period costumes displayed against amusingly stylish cartoon cut-out sets…it is one of the best nights at the theatre I have had this year.’
‘The production is uplifting, charming, jam-packed with knockout performances, stunning costumes and an eye catching ‘Pythonesque’ set. [Director Martin] Lloyd-Evans has created a perfect production, gleeful, satirical with more than a few belly laugh inducing moments thrown in for good measure.’
‘this version just works; [Martin] Lloyd-Evans’ direction is a model of restraint, but is filled with neat bits of modern business that are never allowed to get in the way of the humour in the libretto…the performers sing strongly and the choruses are powerful.'
Oldham Evening Chronicle
'Rave reviews have been pouring in since this pirate ship set sail in May, and from Tuesday's showing at the New Theatre It's not hard to see why. From the moment the curtain starts rippling, wave-like, to the sound of seagulls, you sense that this is going to be a bit special - and it doesn't disappoint...There are some outstanding individual performances, most notably Rebecca Bottone's vocally stunning and adorably geeky Mabel...If you love Gilbert & Sullivan, you will love this show. If you've always thought you didn't liek Gilbert & Sullivan, this might just be the show that changes your mind. It's lively, musically excellent, visually appealing and full of humour - what more could you ask for?'
Oxford Mail *****
‘Director Martin Lloyd-Evans and his designer Jamie Vartan plays the show for all the considerable laughs it can muster, allowing the sending-up of English social values to flow directly from the lyrics without need for updating, as is often the case…The cast for this collaboration between Scottish Opera and The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company revelled in ridiculous but always loveable characters…Frederic was sung and acted with the right degree of naivety and Englishness by the light tenor Sam Furness who was perfectly paired with the Major General’s most feisty daughter Mabel, whose coloratura demands were scaled with flair by Rebecca Bottone. Rosie Aldridge made a daft but delightful Ruth, who also had romantic intentions on her much younger charge. The biggest laughs, however, were provided by the Sergeant of Police – Graeme Broadbent whose natural comic flair was more than assisted by his gyrating long legs. Musically, we were taken on a sparkling Sullivan seaside rollercoaster ride on this warm summer’s evening by The Orchestra of Scottish Opera and the fine chorus.’
‘this production, which avoids the depressing campness of a lot of contemporary versions, introduces other qualities, making it musical, comical, visual and sometimes hysterical…Musically the production’s a treat. Among a strong cast the leggiero tenor of Sam Furness as Frederic perfectly encapsulates the light touch of G&S as well as indicating where the music threatens to exhibit serious intent, especially in his main duet with Mabel, sung expressively by Rebecca Bottone…Graeme Broadbent’s police sergeant is pure John Cleese and Steven Page’s Pirate King a swashbuckler with a voice.’
South Wales Argus