The first ten minutes are exciting to watch as the whole cast (musicians included) busy themselves in building the ship set which is exquisitely designed by Graham Wynne. It is suggestive without ever looking cheap and is complimented by Guy Dickens’ lighting design. Together Wynne and Dickens manage to create a sense of vast sea air and make the production look beautifully playful.
As Captain Corcoran, Ian Belsey is able to bellow with charm and his handlebar moustache positively bristles with propriety and good nature. Philip Cox is full of wit as he plays Sir Joseph Porter with as a slightly camp twinkle-toes, batting away the advances of his elderly female relatives.
The young lovers Ralph and Josephine are sweetly played by Tim Walton and Rhona McKail, with Walton seeming to have leapt from the pages of a Victorian romance novel. Although McKail’s voice is by far the most powerful in the production, she is a little stilted when it comes to the dialogue, meaning the majority of the romance is played out by Walton’s school-of-Willoughby lover.
Despite some stand out performances, there are some serious casting issues as the audience are expected to believe that the young lover Walton is the same age as Belsey’s Captain, and that both of them are younger than Louise Crane’s Buttercup. It is an ask too far; the audience are already pre-occupied believing the actors are on a Victorian era ship and that it is completely natural to burst into song at regular intervals.
Jeff Clarke’s direction is quite tongue-in-cheek and keeps the audience tittering at Gilbert’s parodies of middle class England, but at times it is let down at times by Jenny Arnold’s choreography which can feel trite. However, if you’re looking for a good evening’s entertainment then this production will certainly leave you feeling warm and giggly, rather than sea-sick.