Sunday, 19 October 2014

"Pirates of Penzance": Larger than life!

Fylde Arts is attending a rehearsal with Thornton Cleveleys Operatics (TCOS). We were here a few months ago during final preparations for “Gotta Sing. Gotta Dance”, their successful showcase of ’songs from the shows’. 

This time we are witnessing a rehearsal of “The Pirates Of Penzance”, this year’s chosen extravaganza. The annual spectacular shows are something TCOS is particularly famous for.

Director Howard raw leading the charge! (click to expand)
The cast are straight to work under the direction of Howard Raw, a long time contributor to TCOS. Fylde Arts is here mainly to capture some promotional photography and a little ‘behind the scenes’ filming.

We always keep well out of the way and shoot from the sidelines, and just as well, as this cast are using every square inch of the rehearsal floor; not only in their dance routines, but for their fight sequences too! The cast are wielding swords and Fylde Arts is doing it's best to capture some dramatic footage whilst not getting run through!

Howard interacts with his cast on the floor amongst them, literally taking them through their choreographed paces, and leading the action.

He is particular about pushing the energy of the cast’s physical performances.

During a short break Fylde Arts takes the opportunity to chat with the director. We are especially interested in his take on the famous show. Howard explains:

"The pirates of penzance is very well known especially from a Gilbert and Sullivan sense. This ‘Pirates' is based on both the Broadway' and London ‘Pirates' that ran many years ago.

When it was put out to London’s West End and on Broadway they re-scored some of the percussion.  The emphasis was on rhythm and dance; the whole show was danced! This gave the show a sort of ‘pop' feel.

So we have changed the original into the poppy version. Basically you’d be coming to see a ‘Pirates' that is a modern interpretation,  full of dance, full of movement, full of life, energy, pace, and attack!"

Howard is enthusiastic about creating energy generated through the physicality of movement and action. TCOS has a wide pool of experienced talent, who are regulars at giving tour de force dramatic performances, so Fylde Arts wonders how he will utilise his cast in terms of character.

Songs, action, and romance too!
"All of the characters are unusual and quirky.

We have a large company, and what we are doing with ‘Pirates’ this time is something a little bit different.

At TCOS we have a very good team of female dancers but theres nothing for the female dancers to do [in the traditional show]. So what we’ve created is a Pirate siren, where the ladies are in thigh boots and pirate gear. We have a female input into the pirates, without the pirates knowing they are female!”

It’s an interesting twist, utilising the talented TCOS cast to its fullest, whilst adding to the show’s sense of quirky adventure. Our enthusiastic director continues:

"In the G & S version there are about twenty-odd daughters who basically come tripping on in pretty dresses and sing prettily. Our daughters, there's seven, and they are very raucous. They are very manic. One of them has a 'lithp on the ethes’, one of them wears jam jar glasses and can hardly see. One of them is a bit of a drunk, and another is into men!  So all of them have got these quirky idiosyncrasies that brings them out 'larger than life'! It adds to the whole ‘fun’ of it and the whole zest!”

The rehearsal quickly continues. From ‘policemen’ singing of their lot, to jubilant ‘daughters' excitedly flirting with the roguish pirates, the direction to character extends to every detail of their individual performances, even during the amusing fight that follows. A battle which seems to feature just about the entire company! Fylde Arts has been getting a workout leaping out of the way of the pointy end of swords!

 Look out: 'pointy ends'! (click to expand)
Throughout, Micheal Holdsworth has been leading the charge of his pirates in dashing form, quite literally wall-to-wall. Fylde Arts now wonders if even The Marine Hall’s expansive stage will be quite large enough to contain their physical performances and their 'larger than life' characters. 

At the end of the energetic rehearsal Fylde Arts is left with a task; to distill into words an essence of what we can expect on October 28th. Our director suggests a ‘nutshell’: "There’s lots of humour and lots of slapstick comedy, whilst still paying attention to those traditional G & S values that they created all those years ago."

Pirates of Penzance runs from 28th October - 1st November 2014 at The Marine Hall, Fleetwood.

Tickets are available by phoning the box office: 01253 860856

Words and Photography: Adrian Patrick