Review: Sasha Regan’s All Male HMS Pinafore, Union Theatre

“We’re sober, sober men and true”

The Union’s all male productions of Gilbert and Sullivan has become a reliable institution on the theatrical calendar and this year is no exception with their revival of HMS Pinafore (Or The Lass That Loved A Sailor) which they last delivered back in 2007. This interpretation starts off onboard a ship in the 1940s as a group of young sailors are killing time on their bunkbeds. As one strikes up a tune on his handy recorder, so the show slides into place as a little amusement for these men and it’s a neat way of subtly justifying the all-male conceit, with makeshift costumes just thrown together from whatever is at hand, playing up the inventive feel of the whole enterprise.

And with Regan’s sure hand at the tiller, Lizzi Gee’s choreography sweeping across the deck and Chris Mundy’s nimble fingers billowing the musical sails, it makes for a successful voyage across the Southwark seas. The playfulness of the concept makes for guileless pleasures – the nifty twist of a neckerchief turns a sailor into a sister (or a cousin, or an aunt) and Gee makes the most of the ensemble’s physicality with routines based around skipping ropes and press-ups, and the interlocking movements of different groups is beautifully realised using the sheer simplicity of Ryan Dawson-Laight’s design. Continue reading “Review: Sasha Regan’s All Male HMS Pinafore, Union Theatre”

Review: Pipe Dream, Union Theatre

”You wonder where your heart can go”

As unlikely as it seems, there are still Rodgers and Hammerstein shows that have never been performed in the UK and in the hope of unearthing a little gem, Sasha Regan’s Union Theatre took on the 1955 flop Pipe Dream and given it the chamber treatment. Some of the songs may be familiar from State Fair which was recently very well-revived by the Finborough and unfortunately, it’s a comparison which does Pipe Dream few favours, as I couldn’t help but feel that this show had little to really commend it and pretty much deserves the obscurity in which it has languished.

Based on two John Steinbeck novels, Sweet Thursday and Cannery Row, the show focuses on the deadbeat end of society – prostitutes and layabouts populate this Depression-era world, an innovation which popular wisdom would have was too outrageous for 1950s audiences. The problem seems more to be the coyness with which Rodgers and Hammerstein treat this though – Suzy the heroine of the show works in the local whorehouse yet the conservatism of the writing never explains it properly, and this cripples her burgeoning relationship with marine biologist Doc which forms the backbone of the show, their pairing stuttering and staggering over obstacles which are never quite clear. Continue reading “Review: Pipe Dream, Union Theatre”