All-Male H.M.S. Pinafore
Saturday 30th April 2016
There’s a tradition, particularly in British schools, of same-sex productions of the works of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.
Generations of boys and girls have blasted out “Three little maids,” “A policeman’s lot,” and “I’m called little buttercup” in school gymnasia, village halls and scout huts over the years.
But Sasha Reagan and the team at the Union Theatre in London’s Southwark have taken this concept and, over the past decade or so, refined it into a unique art form.
To date, they’ve produced all-male versions of The Mikado, Iolanthe The Pirates of Penzance and – now- of HMS Pinafore.
The production, this time, takes place in the bowels of a warship in World War II, meaning that, for the first time this viewer recalls, the all-male aspect is not simply accepted, but justified as the piece is turned, effectively, into a play-within-a-play. A step which, whilst it adds a touch of nostalgic melancholy – the sailors, awaiting battles that they may not survive, removed from their loved ones, and reliant on each other to a level that breaks down the traditional British reserve – isn’t entirely necessary.