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Rollicking journey on the high seas


You might be more familiar with Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1880 operetta The Pirates of Penzance; or, The Slave of Duty than you’d think.

Its scores have featured in the likes of pop cult TV series The Simpsons, where Barney sings the first part of the Major-General’s Song, and, more recently, in Australian Beef’s The Greatest Meat on Earth musical ad.

The 1994 revival starring Jon English brought the operetta to life once more and popularised it among modern audiences.

Its many iterations in film and on television show just how versatile the operetta is, lending itself to a rollicking good time in any context.

The latest adaptation, produced by Opera Hunter, is no exception.

“Because it’s public domain, you can have a lot of fun with it and make it your own,” Freya Meredith, who plays the character of Mabel, tells Newcastle Weekly.

Meredith’s fiancé has been cast as Frederic, a pirate’s apprentice who falls in love with Mabel, the daughter of Major-General Stanley.

Frederic is due to be relinquished from duty after his 21st birthday, but there’s a snag: as he was born in a leap year, it is discovered that he is not yet 21, but a boy of five.

He battles an internal struggle between love and dutifulness.

Fast forward from 1980s Cornwall to present-day Newcastle, two alternating casts – For Love and For Duty – will perform a series of shows from Wednesday 24 July (preview) to Sunday 4 August at Lake Macquarie Performing Arts Centre.

Sydney-based actor Tristan Entwistle, who won a CONDA for his portrayal of Leporello in Opera Hunter’s production of Shakespeare’s Don Giovanni in 2017, plays the Pirate King in the For Love cast, while Matthew Gallimore fills those boots in For Duty.

Perhaps a direct reflection of the operetta’s pliability is the fact that neither Entwistle nor Gallimore have approached the role the same way.
“All the more reason to come and see the show twice,” Gallimore quips.

Tickets to the show are $40 for adults, $35 concession and $20 children.

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