Returning after two years is Mike Leigh’s inimitable production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, which is notably stronger in direction and performance compared to its first outing. It didn’t make the cut for some critics who complained about its cavernous and abstract staging for the London Coliseum’s large theatre, which has a capacity reaching 2,350. That said, this is the same production that took more than £600,000 at the UK box office, with roughly 40,000 viewers, when it was screened in cinemas for a one-night showing. I know, go figure.
After some past disappointments, what are we to expect from Mike Leigh this time round? Firstly, Sarah Tipple directs this revival, yet the same designer Alison Chitty is here to stay. The simple, fluorescent, blind-your-eyes shades aren’t leaving the ENO just yet, however, this doesn’t seem a problem when the performers have great voices and provide something unique and wacky to their characterisation. After all, this is the comedy writings of W. S Gilbert.