Swash-buckling success with ‘The Pirates of Penzance’

Picture credit: the incredible Gwen Davis!

Picture credit: the incredible Gwen Davis!

Before this summer, I had never visited the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and knew very little about the fantastic array of performances and opportunities it provided. However, this all changed in August, when I made my Fringe debut as Mabel in Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic The Pirates of Penzance!

The production – directed by Peter Swallow and musically-directed by Samuel Boobier – was generously supported by the Mermaids Performing Arts Fund (University of St Andrews). We’d also done a few fundraising activities earlier in the year, including a short concert in the Barron Theatre and a performance at Anstruther Harbour Festival – both of which were brilliant fun!

Accompaniment was provided on piano by the lovely Mairi Grewar, and the cast of 15 took to the stage in Paradise at Augustine’s for a six-show run between August 9 and 15. The location of the venue was fantastic; based right in the centre of Edinburgh and around 3 minutes from Grassmarket, we were able to see shows after performances and eat all the delicious street food we desired. I was delighted to catch Opera dei Lumi’s Le Nozze di Figaro in Greyfriars Kirk – which was superb – and to spend most lunchtimes eating all the curry in the world at the Mosque Kitchen!

The atmosphere of the Festival and the Fringe was amazing. Flyering was great fun – especially on the Royal Mile – and it was very flattering to be recognised from time to time on the street, although my “burnt orange” get-up was quite hard to miss…

…and on the subject of “burnt orange”: the role of Mabel was an absolute joy to perform. I particularly enjoyed embracing my inner crazy during “Poor wand’ring one” – in complete contrast to the genuine sadness of “Ah, leave me not to pine”. Perhaps there’s more to Mabel than meets the eye!

We had sell-out audiences for over half the performances and received fantastic feedback – including a 4* review from Broadway Baby. I couldn’t have had a more enjoyable first time at the Fringe – and am very grateful to all the friends and family that came along to support us.

In addition, huge congratulations must go to the teams of Bear Hug and Patriots – both brilliant new works by student playwrights from the University of St Andrews – and to the unbelievably funny members of Blind Mirth, St Andrews’ only improv-comedy group!


“Mabel is out to get what she wants and Caroline Taylor’s commanding performance with her soaring soprano voice and elements of coloratura ensures her success…[the cast] embrace this joyous show with all the talent they have and entertain from the first pouring of the pirate sherry to the last tarantara. ****” (Richard Beck, Broadway Baby: http://www.broadwaybaby.com/shows/the-pirates-of-penzance/706151)

Audience reviews

“An absolutely fantastic show; the songs were incredible and the talent and enthusiasm of the cast cannot be faulted.”

“I found this traditional interpretation fast paced and really funny.”

“Absolutely superb, enough also for an 11 year old to laugh about and understand. Really great performances without exception.”

“Imaginative direction and very strong performances across the whole cast make this comic operetta sparkle with humour and light-heartedness.”

“The cast were excellent although extra praise should go to Mabel. Her stage entrance was brilliance itself.”


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