|Major-General Stanley||...||Dave Bolton||The Pirate King||...||Rob Garson||Samuel (his lieutenant)||...||Alex Hayes||Frederick(the pirate apprentice||...||Curtis Dobson||Sergeant of Police||...||Richard Blight||Mabel||...||Dawn Furness||Edith||...||Emma Farrell||Kate||...||Liz Fearon||Ruth||...||Sarah Vandevelde||Isobel||...||Penny Richards|
|General Stanley's Daughters|
Juliet Wattebot O'Brien
|Pirates and Police|
|Chair||-||Jim Callin||Chairman||-||Allison MacKenzie|
|Treasurer||-||Damian Taylor||Treasurer||-||Doug Killen|
|Secretary||-||Emily Fielding||Secretary||-||Emma-Louise Wyley|
|Social Secretary||-||Penny Richards|
|Musical Director:||Peter England||Director:||Nigel Machin|
|Production Manager:||Keiran Taylor-Thomas||Designer:||Nigel Machin|
|Lighting Designer:||Jim Callin||Wardrobe:||Allison MacKenzie|
|Photography:||Julia Webb||Stage Manager:||Caroline Marriott|
|Mike Harris||Deputy Stage Manager:||Louise Carson|
|Asst. Stage Managers:||Neil Sims, Rob Brown||Ticket Sales:||Jim Callin|
|Costume Team:||Coral Sirett, Lucy Wright||Lighting Operator:||Lauren Crawford|
|Iona Pickard, Kitty Von Vloten||Poster Design:||Peter England|
|Front of House:||Una Monaghan, Kate Farmery||Accompanist:||Mike Harris, Martin Bussey|
|Frank Stapleton:||Miss Tak N.I.D'Un-Titi||Advertising:||Pete England, Julia Webb|
|Programme Editor:||Pete England||Stage Crew:||Marcus Tinsley|
|Keiran Taylor-Thomas||Mike Cowperthwaite|
|Set Construction:||Neil Sims||Richard Sullivan|
|James Hook||Kate Farmery|
|Lauren Crawford||Susanna Wilding|
|Andrew Gill||Andrew Biggs|
|Peter Carroll||Rick Garner|
|Phil Ashworth||Catherine Robertson|
|Penny Richards||Andrew Gill|
|Alex Hayes||Steph Tinsley|
|Louisa Ersanilli||James Hook|
|Rob Brown||Harriet Mercy|
|Richard Wozyername||et al|
The Pirates of Penzance has a number of things going for it no matter what. As one of the most popular of Gilbert & Sullivans' operettas, the society can usually count on slightly more reliable ticket sales. It is also hugely fun to appear in the chorus. There are many Big Numbers (Cat-like Tread for instance) with lots of swashbuckling, comedy marching, swooning over the male lead, the Pirates pouncing upon the Daughters with evil laughs...
However, 1995's Pirates was memorable for far more than that. The show was really quite traditional. It managed to be so memorable for the way in which the directors took the opportunity of a talented cast to push the Society into producing an above-average show.
The first thing to strike the audience must surely have been the set. The normal curtains were supplemented by purple hangings. The overture complete, the hangings rose to reveal the entire male chorus, as Pirates, crewing a majestic Pirate Ship. No static flat this; the entire machine revolved, clearing the depth of the stage by something like six inches, as the Pirates launched in "Pour O Pour.... Motive power was provided from within by a number of the Pirates who would disappear into the innards of the beast to heave it round. The chorus was its hammy self; the principals were notable too. Rob Garson made a wonderful Pirate King; muscular, swarthy, huge of thigh and character, evidently unable to sing anything and perfectly uncaring. Alex Hayes took the opportunity of a director open to new ideas to turn the quiet lieutenant Samuel into an outrageously camp pink flamingo, mincing about the show like some terrible escapee from a drunken cabaret act. Sarah Vandavelde's Ruth showed no fear whatsoever, launching herself from the aftmost platform, some six feet above the bows, into the assembled Pirates. Curtis played Frederick straight, somehow, and managed not to be swamped by the girning around him - a remarkable achievement.
The Pirate Ship zoomed off to Stage Left under its own propulsion, taking the cheering Pirates with it. Frederick and Ruth had boarded a dinghy, which by movement relative to the Pirate Ship was now reaching the shore. Ruth's glorious singing was snatched from us by the arrival of the fabulous female chorus. All bedecked in peach or pink dresses, topped with beribbon and flowery straw hats, they streamed in their dozens - some down ramps from high to the side of the stage - from entrances everywhere. The assemble horde was notable for its girlish enthusiasm - once again the director's instruction that they were to giggle tended to produce cackling from the pits of Hell. The Measure was well and truly Tripped. We also had the privilege to meet the leading three daughters, Edith (Emma Farrell), Kate (Liz Fearon) and Isobel (Penny Richards). The three lead a rampant chorus of girlishness, shrieking at the appearance of the fearsome Frederick. Their fear soon turned to swooning, anguished beating of breasts, and fearsome lechery as Curtis launched into that most lovely of G&S number, the tenor lead solo. The male chorus backstage would gather around the loudspeaker to see if he would get the last few horrendous notes, as the male chorus is wont to do. Whether you believe that this is to lend moral support or gloat over the breaking voice of the romantic hero depends on your charity.
It was time, of course, for the entrance of the delectable (if not demure) Mabel. Dawn Furness has the most amazing voice. Her first year in the society, she arrived late to her first rehearsal and declined interrupt proceedings to join the female chorus. I recall pompously lecturing her on how to tell whether she was a soprano or alto; by the time of the show the MD (Pete England) had written special musical parts for her voice. The audience was not left waiting for its use: the first long note introducing Mabel was sung as she appeared USR on the cliffs rising above the bay and swooped in an alarmingly Wagnerian fashion down the ramp, up SL and off the stage again, maintaining the one high note all the while! She returned to win the hearts of all with quite exquisite, beautiful singing, again adapted for her voice. Their wooing was interrupted, alas, by the complete chaos that ensued with the return of the Pirates to their lair...(to be continued)
The programme cover
Aboard their pirate ship the Pirates of Penzance mourn the loss of Frederick.
The daughters arrive at the isolated pirate cove.
The pirates return to seize the daughters.
The Major-General (Dave Bolton) attempts to handle a sticky situation with the Pirate King (Rob Garson) as Frederick (Curtis Dobson) and Mabel (Dawn Furness) and the daughters look on.
The pirates celebrate their successful approach to the castle as the policemen hide.
The pirates, policemen and daughters fight it out.
The pirates are triumphant - but not for long!