The Gilbert and Sullivan Players February performance of The Pirates of Penzance in the Queen Victoria Hall revived the company’s very first production from 1959. They have staged the play five times since then.
This year’s production was directed by Marian Porter and Kate Wishart, with a cast of ten principal performers, a chorus of 18 members, and a live orchestra led by Ben Smith, all supported by an efficient backstage crew.
The production design was inspired by a Christmas card and an advert for a set of placemats. Marian Porter described the design to her costume team as “A Room with a View meets Half a Sixpence, but absolutely not The Pirates of the Caribbean.” They also modified the plot by adding a new character, Samuel, who was “more like Carson of Downton Abbey, but forced into piratical servitude by a destitute master”.
Oundle’s Gilbert and Sullivan Players was formed in 1958, joining a world-wide society in honour of the Victorian-era theatrical partnership of the dramatist W. S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and the composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900), who collaborated on fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896.
H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado are among the best known. There are at least 100 Gilbert and Sullivan societies in the UK, and many more groups worldwide.
Gilbert and Sullivan productions have a reputation for attracting an audience that is long past middle-aged. However, trends maybe shifting, with younger audiences growing to appreciate the exuberant comic romp of a good Gilbert & Sullivan show.
Oundle’s Players have been successful enlisting much younger performers to sign up and join the cast and stage crew in rehearsals and planning throughout the year.