REVIEW: The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan – Glasgow Orpheus Society

“The Orpheus Club is the longest established amateur musical society in Great Britain, and probably the world, and have performed an annual stage production uninterrupted for 119 years. The Club was founded in the south side of the City of Glasgow, Scotland, on 3rd October 1892. The club performs major musical productions to the highest artistic standards, employing professional stage directors, musical directors, choreographers, make-up artists, wardrobe assistants, and musicians.”

Well that’s what they say about themselves – now to the production. It’s been years since I saw any Gilbert and Sullivan so when I saw this I thought I’d go for it. 

First and foremost the singing was first class as the voices soared through this converted church auditorium. However there were a few downsides – and big ones at that – the auditorium was lit throughout and as one of the performers was overheard to comment at interval, the audience were a little self conscious throughout, being as they were in very close proximity, as well as right in the eye-line of the performers. I’ll vouch for the fact that it was very off-putting! This was a minimally staged performance with only hat changes and the occasional sword or truncheon to stimulate visually. As a result with the lights full up and the lack of visual interest (except the rather elderly member of the cast who had difficulty getting up and down and as a result had the concern of all with him) the audience did a lot of programme reading, glancing self-consciously at one another and shuffling in their seats.

There is no doubting the sheer quality of the singing here, it was superb, but a few more visual treats, or even just the lights going down would have improved the audience experience immeasurably. As it was my two companions swore never to darken the doors of any Orpheus production again on the basis of this experience – so off putting was it for them!

Their next production promises to be a visual treat – Jerry Herman’s La Cage Aux Folles staged next door at the King’s – If they keep up the standards of singing and add the flamboyant visuals this should be a winner. We can only hope so.

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