The Wax Conspiracy

The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan

Child slave labour is a boon to all, and many times over. It pays for itself after the initial orientation training and there isn’t much to leave behind in profits or sharing the loot. Far less harsh than believing in something as retrograde as reciprocal company loyalty.

Pirates of Penzance starts off as a light-hearted romp in indentured servitude and exploiting the fine print in order to serve the goals of the conglomerate. A merry-weather jaunt in taking the agency from a young child and squeezing their worth for the years leading into their more productive age. A wry attack on contract negotiations and working through technicalities as Frederic (Alex George) and Pirate King (Bradley Gilmore) dissect the world of semantics short of an Oxford comma.

It’s a farce and keeps peeling back the layers of reading between the lines. Of trying to get a step ahead in being some place or somewhere in life and knowing you’re going nowhere at all. Life works inside constraints and being able to know how hard to push up against those limits in order to really understand what is even going on.

At various points the singing wavers in strength. Even with a small intimate box stage, you can see words belting out into thinness. Other times the operatic tones are hitting it out and showcasing the range of the voice putting others in their places. It’s not thought to be deliberate in volume fluctuation, but it helps add that range in people in life being unable to speak for themselves. Those with a weaker voice lose out when they let the din of the situation overtake it all.

So it is with those children whisked away into the arms trade to carry out the commands of their supposed superiors. They’ll cleave and cling and want for their voice to be heard, pawing at the chance to be taken into a better situation knowing what they’ve come from. They know the company only cares for them as much as they can churn out the goods. Even then, they’re expendable each day they have their own mind.

As Major-General Stanley (Greg Moore) tongue-twists into scene the focus shifts management styles. Aside goes the people using semantics and in comes straight up deception and bombast. After a clever display of feigned resignation the situation manages to find itself looking at the struggle of a whistle-blower caught between two promises and goes to the spleen of finding that line between loyalty and servitude.

There is no line. It’s whatever bleeds the most guilt into manufactured allegiance.

Yellow paint on the theatre floor makes it feel like the shores of some wretched beach. That working air conditioner cooling the breeze for a humid tropic. All the more to ply The Pirates of Penzance into a state of scenery. It’s a fun thing to watch and listen as they sing lamentations and many times try to convince others as much as themselves that they’re at least true to some kind of motivation.

Dodging the proximity of singers swishing up knee-knuckle close with a 15 minute intermission at the 7 June 2019 performance in the Flashback Black Box Theatre. Directed by Sommer Schoch with musical direction by Theresa Jean Kibby.

Ethan Switch

Reviewed on Monday, 1 July 2019

The Wax Conspiracy


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