LIKE many other much-loved things, Gilbert and Sullivan’s works have been compared to Marmite.

The atmosphere on the opening night of Jorvik Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates Of Penzance was a pleasant reminder of the excitement that can be brought to works that do not, in fact, necessarily "perform themselves".

Although Stuart Roberts’s easy, light tenor was fitting for the youthful Frederic, Roberts shone brightest at points where more power was put behind the voice. The stage presence of Mark Simmonds’s Pirate King was strong, a theatrical highlight alongside Paul Blenkiron’s incorrigible Major-General Stanley. Blenkiron’s moments were many; especially memorable was his serene nightgown-clad waltz with a stuffed bear in ‘Sighing softly to the river’.

Georgie Martin was strong throughout, as the prim nursemaid Ruth who latterly embraces pirate life. Susan Tempelaar deserves special mention for her comically gregarious Isabel.

Mabel, played by Clare Rachel, had her share of virtuosic passages in characteristic homage to, or mockery of, operatic style (the jury may still be out on the exact quality of this historical relationship).

Rachel executed exaggerated coloratura passages with requisite bravura and, with Lois Cross's Edith, confidently navigated exposed staccato passages in the finale.

Heroic efforts were made by all to deliver the fast syllabic patter; the women’s chorus and Major-General Stanley had some fiendish texts to memorise and churn out at high speed. Occasionally ensemble slipped somewhat and words were not always clear, but energy was maintained and diction on the whole was good.

Humorous reflection on operatic convention peaks in Pirates with a finale in which a portrait of Queen Victoria descends from the heavens to end the conflict between pirates and policemen in a delightfully implausible resolution.

Gentle quirkiness and a self-awareness perhaps inextricable from its time (“peers will be peers, and youth will have its fling”) are central to the charm of works like Pirates. Whatever you make of the genre, it’s always a pleasure to watch talented, committed and hardworking performers bring to life a work for which their passion is evident.

Jorvik Gilbert and Sullivan Company in The Pirates Of Penzance, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tonight at 7.30pm; tomorrow, 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Box office: 01904 501935 or

Review by Claire McGinn