Pencoweth, Rondo Theatre, Bath

Pencoweth is a heart-warming tale of 1850s Cornish life, full of original music and ballads and set in the harbour of a Cornish fishing village. Two young fishermen set out to test their respective fiancees prior to the impending weddings. But their disguises and deceptions have a devastating impact on the community  and they are forced out to sea again to try to  sort out the mess they have caused.

Bath-based writers and musicians Dan Lashbrook and Rob Pratt are reunited with director Petra Schofield for this powerful and memorable show, filled with tuneful melodies and exceptional harmonies.  Direction is slick and tight, with the small stage never feeling crowded, and all actors taking their part in telling the tale.

The four lovers need to be strong to carry this tale, and they do not disappoint at all.  In the roles of Freddie and John, the two lead fishermen, Andy Sidall and Grant McCotter are not just beautifully lyrical singers, but good actors as well, showing great timing and pathos as needed, and as their two fiancees, Kerensa and Zelah, Sophie Louise Smith and Charly Crook are equally talented, especially when they have to cope with the tragic consequences of the fishermen’s test.

As Freddie’s sister Alice, Lucy Gaskin brings a knowing, poignant, feel to a sad role, with accurate voice and dramatic tension, while Brin Johnson and Michael Bijok, as old man Crabtree and his son Alfie, add comedy and drama to the twisted tale, with Crabtree’s loving prayer, A Servant of the Sea, evoking in me the first time I ever heard Bring Him Home, with its similar sentiment and imploring lyrics.

The rest of the ensemble provide deep harmony and powerful musical support, not only in the opening and closing numbers, but also with dance and mime throughout the show, the highlight of which is Hevva, describing how their life revolves around fishing.

Pencoweth is great musical theatre, from intimate solos and duets, through the most beautiful sextet, to fully-staged theatrical numbers, all with a rattling good story, and I am pleased there are plans to take it on tour as it deserves bigger and wider success. If you cannot get to Bath before 28th September, look out for it at a theatre near you – a tour is being arranged.


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