It may only be in its fifth season, but Kilworth House Theatre is already reviving former triumphs. The Pirates of Penzance is the show that opened this amazing open-air permanent venue in the grounds of a Leicestershire country house hotel, and now it’s back for another outing.
It has the same creative force as every other Kilworth in-house production behind it – director/choreographer Mitch Sebastian and musical director Matthew Freeman – and shares with them all the same vitalilty, energy and sheer joie de vivre.
There’s never a moment when you’re in any doubt that the cast, band and even volunteer front-of-house staff are having a whale of a time. It blasts across the footlights and grabs the audience by the throat, and in spite of the coolness of an early summer night by the time the metaphorical curtain calls, there’s nothing but warmth going back the other way.
This production is full of wit, life and charm, with impressive designs from Libby Watson and subtle lighting from Chris Davey, while sound designer Chris Whybrow enables the voices to be heard clearly over the amplified orchestra even with the limitations of an open-air venue.
Among the performances, Graham Hoadly and Dickon Gough stand out as a fabulous Major-General and show-stealing Police Sergeant respectively, both displaying fine singing voices and considerable comedy talents.
Meanwhile, Peter Horton is a mellifluous young lead as Frederic, while the corps of pirates and policemen are superbly drilled and full of humorous invention.
There is some fine-tuning to be done elsewhere, notably in the occasionally wayward string section of the band, and some of the other principals incline towards the pantomimic – always a danger with G&S, though in my view unnecessary – but there’s enough exuberance and fun about the whole enterprise to outweigh any shortcomings and send the audience home with a rousing ‘Huzzah!’ to counter the chill in the bones.