Widely regarded as one of the precursors of modern musical theatre, an acclaimed production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore is coming to Queanbeyan’s The Q in February.
The Hayes Theatre Company are touring their production of the classic comic operetta, throughout regional NSW on the back of a critical and commercial hit run in Sydney late last year.
“What was really exciting was the range of people who came to see the show and enjoyed it … we had everyone from newcomers to aficionados, and they all enjoyed it,” director Kate Gaul says.
“It’s very exciting to be there in Queanbeyan for the whole week; it’s a very beautiful theatre and the production will sit very nicely in that space.”
HMS Pinafore’s humour focuses on love between members of different social classes and pokes unashamed fun at society’s obsession with social status, patriotism, party politics and the rise of unqualified people to positions of authority.
Gaul says the work resonates widely, partly due to the simple fact that it’s “a really fun time”.
“The music is so catchy, the language dialogue is so witty, and the satire is timeless … The business of satire is serious, but it should never be taken seriously.
“The more serious storylines might pull at your heartstrings; it’s a really great antidote to the woes of the world, sit back and be entertained.
“It looks beautiful, sounds gorgeous, the text challenges you in your notions of equality, and social hierarchy,” she says.
Gaul says one of the aims of the production has been to re-imagine a work that premiered in 1878 through a 21st century lens; performing a traditional piece with a contemporary wink and a nod.
“It’s the clash of the 19th and 21st centuries coming together.
“We haven’t changed any of the words or the language, but we can tell a very powerful story about love, and equality between the sexes, and I think that’s what realty surprises people, the way the work resonates with people today.”
With this particular production being described as gender-bending, subversive and hilarious, one of the ways in which they’ve modernised ‘Pinafore’ thematically is via cross-casting.
“The cross-casting isn’t particularly revolutionary, but it always gives us pause to think about relationships,” Gaul says.
“They aren’t referred to on stage as same-sex, but there is an examination of same-sex coupledom without referring to it directly.”
The cast also deliver their legendary lines in Australian accents, we get an on-stage orchestra, and there’s a distinct aesthetic brought to the production that injects colour and energy into the work.
“We start off and the set, costumes and production design all reference Victorian-era paper theatres, but there’s a point in Act 1 where the captain suggests extra grog be served to celebrate the arrival of Joseph Porter.
“We play it as if there’s a great party going on, there’s a great explosion of colour and it’s as if we’re in the middle of a Mardi Gras parade. That points toward us having a discussion about equality.”
Gaul’s particularly fond of the balance of youth and experience within the cast, which includes Canberra opera legend, Tobias Cole.
“We’ve got some beautiful young artists, and a balance of emerging through to successful and respected artists.
“The great thing about having more experienced people on stage is they get to share their knowledge, but younger people come in with a different point of view, and that creates a really vibrant energy.
“It’s a different perspective, but still a lot of skill on stage, and the two are always in conversation, which is great,” Gaul says.
HMS Pinafore will be performed at The Q, Queanbeyan from 25 to 29 February. Bookings: theq.net.au