HMS Pinafore – the Carl Rosa Opera, Theatre Royal, Glasgow

shipThe libretto of HMS Pinafore has at its centre a character, in the form of Sir Joseph Porter, who has risen to a status far exceding his talent. There was a certain irony then in the casting of Mr John Savident who, though he looked the part, was wading way out of his depth and would have been wise to keep his feet firmly ashore, treading the familiar pavements of Coronation Street. He could not sing and he could not remember the words that he was supposed to be singing. The ability to sing and to do so using Mr Gilbert’s words are not entirely optional in the production of the Savoy Operas.

Even at its best, there did not look to be a competent crew aboard this Pinafore and whenever the Admiral strode the deck, a palpable sense of nervousness seemed to be catching amongst the rest of the company. The sisters and the cousins and the aunts of the female chorus did a little better at annunciating their words than the sailors, not all of whom knew the lyrics any better than their first Sea Lord, but neither the gentlemen nor the ladies spent the whole evening singing in time with what was going on in the pit.

Rare patches of sunlight shone on the production in the form of some beautiful singing by Olivia Safe as a lovely Josephine.

There can be something endearing and even charming in the production of the works of Gilbert and Sullivan even when performed by amateur companies who can make up for a lack of talent with boisterous enthusiasm and commitment. Such things were absent amongst this professional outfit who looked under rehearsed and under prepared.

Even the bows at the end of the production got into a fankle when the orchestra were acknowledged by Miss Safe before all the cast (in particular Mr Savident) had received the lukewarm adulation of the crowd. One felt she had a point.

This was the first night of a three and a half month tour that will take the ship to Brighton, Wimbledon, Norwich, Belfast, Bath and other points around Blighty.

However the production ends up by the time it gets to Windsor in June, one thing was clear from its opening night in Glasgow.

This ship was not fit to sail.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆


  1. but still, it must have brought back fond memories of St Andrews.

  2. Kelvin says

    Yes, it did. It brought back memories of a more competent production.

  3. Can I recommend a show for you to attend – even though it does mean that you will have to go to the South Side – that you may see a greater level of dramatic proficency.

    From 24 to 28 March, Theatre South Productions are putting on Boogie Nights at Eastwood Park Theatre (on the south side of Glasgow). More details at thier web site.

  4. Robert Brooks says

    Very dissapointing performance, embarassing to say the least. Miss Safe was a real let down as Josephine, my 14 year old daughter can sing the role better and act. Jeremy Finch was obviously in the wrong job and needs to be replaced if the tour is to survive to the next venue.

  5. Ralph Rackstraw says

    Carl Rosa are a terrible company who are doing nothing but harm to modern Gilbert and Sullivan. Universally despised by the performing world they will very soon need to cut their losses and run if this steady stream of abysmal reviews continues.

  6. Owen Martin says

    I’m not suprised in the least that this company has been given yet another bad crit. It seems that the ‘artistic’ director of the company decided not to employ decent stage directors anymore in favour of poor (but I imagine cheaper) capabilities. It shows. The poor performers, who I am sure try their best, are clearly not given any guidance or enough preparation time. This “company” should and must be wound up for the good of the future of Gilbert and Sullivan. Shame on you Carl Rosa Opera.

  7. And to think you could pop down to The Quays Theatre at The Lowry and see Opera della Luna. Check the website for details of the short tour of Pinafore they are doing. It may just restore your faith – without requiring any “jusification” or receiving any public subsidy

  8. Margaret Eccles says

    I don’t know what show you were watching but when we saw the Carl Rosa Pinafore last night in Cheltenham we thought it excellent – the whole cast was good, sets, costumes, everything.

    We aren’t backwoods folk who would applaud anything & everything. I’m an opera nut and we both attend chamber concerts and loads of other things. This production was outstanding.

  9. If they have got it together now, I’m pleased to hear it, but they should not be using Glasgow’s Theatre Royal as rehearsal space. What they put on here was dreadful. Its obvious from other comments here that my experience was not an isolated one.

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