By W. S. GILBERT and ARTHUR SULLIVAN performed by THE SCHOOL OPERATIC SOCIETY IN THE SCHOOL HALL on March 26th, 27th, and 28th, 1936
(This notice is based on a visit to the last of the three performances.)
The key note of this production was its integrity, a virtue that marked out the performances themselves no less than the long and toilsome weeks of preparation that preceded them.
For though the soloists might rehearse at ten minutes past four, the chorus at five o'clock, the orchestra at six, and the full company at seven, it was not until the week of the performances had dawned that the rest of us noticed ought of all this. The term had gone its solid course with gapless ranks; no Pirate had turned his back on Latin or Literature; no General's daughter had absented himself from the labs; and the devotion of the few had endowed the new Operatic Society with the shining and, considering the magnitude of its enterprise, unexpected virtue of being a genuinely out-of-school activity. We took our seat on the night in a correspondingly good humour.
In an impressive and decorous "well," emanating from the workshop, sat Mr. Belchambers' orchestra of 20 good men and true, and the tuning and preliminary twittering of such a range of instruments can never yet have been heard in the Monoux School Hall. The overture was perhaps their least effective achievement, but thereafter they greatly distinguished themselves, playing, neath the sway of Mr. Belchambers' firm baton, with a goodly volume, a masterly sureness, a ready discretion, a firm sweep of strings and a lyrical sweetness of flute, that were completely satisfying.
That same sureness, attainable by nothing but really hard work, was the hall-mark of the stage. Not a cue was missed; there was no thought of the prompter; recitatives were intoned as by mature Elijah soloists; encores granted without a moment's fumbling; and the chorus of the General's Daughters, filling the limited scene with their spreading gear, elaborately gyrated, but collided not.
These young ladies, quite the most lifelike constituent of the cast, were one of the outstanding successes of the production, and their first buzzing, fluttering entry was hailed with incredulous applause. Charmingly dressed, they were to remain throughout the evening gracefully, splendidly, amusingly in character. Only their tone might at times have been fuller.
No less effective in appearance, movement and by-play was the grim and leering Pirate Band, singing and acting with resonant zest. In Act II the male chorus is divided, and while the pirates stampeded splendidly "with cat-like tread." the rest, with drooping moustaches and doleful mien, gave a precise and at the same time admirably droll performance of the two policemen's choruses. It may here be said that the humours of the opera, however we of 1936 may individually estimate them, were fully understood and exploited by the entire cast.
And so to the principals. Here, it must be confessed, notwithstanding the many and enjoyable merits of the various performances, we frequently longed for a greater volume of tone. Wisely, no doubt, the voices had not been forced, and the effect was always musical, but the fact remains that, vocally, B.T.D.Otter and J.A.Cartwright were alone consistently equal to their roles, and to the hall.
E.N.Duff was admirably cast for the long and arduous part of Frederick, the Pirate Apprentice. He has a pleasant voice and sang throughout with an excellent sureness, most effectively, perhaps, in "Oh! Is there not one maiden breast" and in the first duet with Mabel. His acting was marked by a certain ingenuousness, that was well in character, but at times, too, by a stiffness and poverty of gesture which were less admirable. The same weakness somewhat marred the Pirate King of A.J.W.Dykes, particularly in Act I, where his lack of abandon made "Oh, better far to live and die" less exhilarating that it might have been. But he looked well, with glowing eyes amid coal-black locks, was consistently good in the important shorter musical pronouncements of his part. and made an admirable job of the explanatory incantation concerning Frederick's age. K.Paton, resplendently uniformed, revealed the soul of the Major General with an earnestness that was excellently ironic, and tackled well the difficult patter song in Act I.J.I'A.Cartwright made a definite success of the heroic part of the Sergeant of Police, bringing to it a clear and resonant voice and much effective humour of gesture and intonation. The encore repeat of "When a felon's not engaged in his employment" in the accents of Mayfair was a pretty compliment to the alumni of the Police College. D.G.Knappett sang and acted lustily in the part of Sam, the Pirate Lieutenant.
As Mabel, the female lead, B. T. D. Otter acted not so much poorly as not at all. But his singing was magnificent. When once the awkward coloratura passage of Mabel's entry had been negotiated, he sang until the end with a splendid sureness of pitch and tempo, a winning resonance and purity, that were a great delight. With its slightly plaintive timbre, his voice was equally effective in the lovely solo passages of the part (such as "Poor wand'ring one" and "Did ever maiden wake"); in the charming duet with Frederick in Act II ("Stay, Fred'ric, stay'."); and, in perhaps the best minutes of the evening, soaring freely above the full texture of orchestra and double chorus, with "Go ye heroes. go to glory!" Mabel's principal sisters, Edith, Kate and Isabel, were delightfully played by D.P.D.Curl, A.L.Dallas and R.D.Barry respectively; Edith with a smiling matronliness; Kate with a coy and delicate grace, a charming piece of acting; and Isabel as a sterner brunette. Curl had most to sing, but was unfortunately too inaudible. As Ruth, the Pirate Maid-of-all-work, R.R.Davis acted vigorously, but seemed vocally somewhat miscast.
But it is to the concerted numbers that the mind reverts: to the first duet of Mabel and Frederick against the weather chatter of the General's Daughters; to the fine hymnal outburst "Hail Poetry"; and to the complex and hitchless finale of Act II, with its swift-moving denouement, its lively interplay of soloists and chorus, recitative and recapitulation, and Mabel's last haunting "Take heart" on that succession of separated quavers.
However hard they worked on the stage and in the orchestra, much of the credit for the success of the performances and for those qualities of sureness and smoothness that were their outstanding characteristic is due to other helpers: to the skill, the patience and the enthusiasm of Mr. Gerald Matthews, the producer; to Mr. Brobyn, who secured point and audibility for the spoken dialogue; to Mr. Skinner, who coached the soloists and, if it may be divulged, swelled the choruses from the wings: to Mr. Arthur and his attendant luminaries, who installed and controlled the lighting with their usual resourcefulness and efficiency; and to Mrs. Belchambers, Miss Bolton and Mrs. Curl, who gave most valuable help in connection with the female costumes. The scenery, stable and satisfying, had been kindly lent by the Woodford Fellowship. Mr. Rayner and Mr. Emery were Business Managers, and Mr. Watson Advertisement Manager, and their duties were by no means light. (It is pleasing to record, incidentally, that the production paid, and more than paid, its way.)
And all the threads converged in the hands of Mr. Belchambers, the musical director, co-ordinating genius, ultimate driving force, in a word, the sine qua non of the production. We certainly hope he will undertake something similar in the future with the more Otters, the better.
by W. S. GILBERT and ARTHUR SULLIVAN
The School Hall
March 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th
Granted that Sullivan's overture is not very much more than a marshalled selection of things to come; that a communicative audience did not deem the show to have commenced before the curtain rose; that "The sun, whose rays are all ablaze" was beautifully played by the oboe and accompanied by the rest; that rehearsals for the complete orchestra may have been difficult to secure, all these things granted, it cannot be denied that the playing of the overture was noticeably lacking in crispness and incisiveness. Remembering a similar weakness in last year's performance of The Pirates of Penzance, may we suggest that rather more care be devoted to the prelude of any future opera that may be performed?
The opening number of Act I brought us to the second and major weakness of the production: the vocal anaemia of the male chorus. For while as to their movements and gestures the gentlemen of Japan were an amusing and well trained body, throughout the evening they sent into the hall far less than their due quota of tone. Since criticism should be constructive, we would suggest that three possible courses be considered on a future occasion: an increase in their number; more elaborate preparatory vocal training; and the frequent testing of their effectiveness from the body of the Hall.
If we have dealt somewhat solemnly with the main defects of the production, it is because its general excellence and great enjoyableness most definitely entitle it to an attempt at critical assessment.
Without a programme, no one would have suspected that G.E.Lloyd-Jones had taken up the part of Nanki-Poo only four days before the first performance to fill the gap caused by the illness of E.N.Duff. Lloyd-Jones has a clear, firm and sympathetic voice and sang with admirable sureness and unfaltering rightness of pitch in his one solo number ("A wand'ring minstel I"), in the duet with Yum-Yum ("Were you not to Ko-Ko plighted"); and in the various concerted numbers, where his clean-cut vocal line was always noticeable. Thanks to excellent enunciation, his words were clearly audible and, even in the dialogue passages, he was all but independent of the prompter. If his acting was restrained, it may be said, first, that the part will hardly bear extensive individualisation and, second, that the scene with Yum-Yum in Act I, with much delaying behind fans, was as charmingly played as it could have been.
Dressed first in lemon yellow, then in a pale and flowered pink, L.N.Billson was a delightful Yum-Yum. There was a smiling grace and artlessness in his acting and a vernal freshness in his singing that made us sorely regret the relative smallness of the part. The one solo number, "The sun, whose merry rays are all ablaze," with its lovely accompaniment of clarinet and muted strings, was perfectly done and clamorously encored, and in all the concerted numbers, including the finales, this soprano most surely and musically held his own, rising to a sustained but effortless A in the Tra-la-la-la's of "The flowers that bloom in the spring."
Yum-Yum had an excellent foil in Pitti-Sing, to whose character P.E.Colinese gave an admirably definite stamp of self-possession, sophistication and impudence, qualities that were amusingly heightened by his diminutive stature. Musically it is a long and not unintricate part, prominent in both finales and involved in many of the concerted numbers, and it had been most admirably mastered. Any defect in vocal quality was amply compensated for by absolute sureness and by the clearest enunciation. The slight part of Peep-Bo, the third sister, was played with rather less assurance by R.F.Cresey. A.L.Dallas gallantly attacked the role of Katisha, for which he was neither vocally nor histrionically suited. For he has little of the vocal power necessary for the thwarted and seething Katisha of the first finale and for the big numbers of Act II, while here was our most graceful female impersonator cast for a part where angularity had been a virtue.
We return to the men. Beneath layers of paint, a completely unrecognizable W.I.Allen made an excellent job of the Mikado. Splendidly attired in black and gold, with tapering finger-nails and nodding head-gear, gap-toothed and leering, he gave an admirably unctuous and entertaining performance as the bloodthirsty oriental roue. It was an important success, for, even on the particular dramatic plane of comic opera, the characters and fortunes of his subjects appreciably gained in vividness and significance before this forbidding imperial figure.
As the most loyal of those subjects, Pish-Tush, A.C.Green made a distinct hit. Admirable in its gestures, this unsmiling performance had its own oriental callousness. His singing was vigorous, and superbly undisturbed by its own limitations.
As Pooh-Bah, the Lord High Everything Else, S.T.Southgate gave a capitally humorous impersonation of physical and mental inflation. Admirably did this rogue flop to the earth, struggle aloft, amble, waddle and shuffle across the stage. A well-judged and well-sustained delivery kept this creature constantly alive and even tided over its more tiresome humours. Regarding self-decapitation, "A man might try"; agreeing with Katisha's contention that her face is unattractive, "It is" a repetition of what the Mikado had not quite caught, "Mercy even for Pooh-Bah": these and other observations were made in monumental accents unerringly comic. And the house rewarded them. Vocally, Southgate was adequate for the part, most effective, perhaps, in the toast of Nanki-Pooh in the first finale.
The comicality of Pooh-Bah is essentially grotesque; but the figure of Ko-Ko, however fantastic are the bases of his situation, has a deeper, mellower humour, something allied to, and hinting at, the tragi-comedy of life itself. And to this Ko-Ko D.G.Knappett, with a neatness of gesture and an expressiveness of intonation all his own, did brilliant justice. One thinks of him inspecting the chorus with intermittent bobs in his opening scene; or irritably brushing aside Nanki-Pooh's intended suicide, then seizing on it and inimitably portraying the splendours of Execution Day. But above all one thinks of the Ko-Ko of Act II, deep in the soup, cheerfully extricating himself or desperately accepting the inevitable, and ever and anon flapping possessively down the avenues of his sea-girt garden. One looked forward to his every return to the stage and to the laughter that would follow. His voice was firmly prominent in the texture of the concerted numbers; of uneven power in his solos; at its best in "Tit willow," the epitome of his whole interpretation.
The Mikado is an opera of concerted numbers, and, if the balance of the voices was not always perfect, the buoyant and confident rendering of these duets and trios and quartets, their smooth and firm integration, were eloquent of hard work and unflagging rehearsal.
One constituent of the cast remains to be mentioned, the Chorus of Schoolgirls. With the gayest and prettiest of kimonos, apple-red cheeks and a profusion of jet-black hair, a detachment of the Lower School had again been utterly translated (overheard in the auditorium: "Jolly good show; where do they get all the girls from?") and grouped and tripped and wound their picturesque way through the evening, a delightful element of movement and colour. Their singing was often a good deal thinner than we could have wished, yet in justice to both sections of the Chorus it must be recorded that both the finales were sung with rousing vigour and that the drowning of Katisha's voice with bursts of Japanese at the end of Act I was particularly well done.
Apart from the Overture and a few other movements, Mr. Belchambers, the Musical Director, secured admirably firm and sensitive playing from his orchestra and allowed the beauty and variety of Sullivan's score, with its marked prominence of wood-wind, most satisfyingly to emerge. Mr. Belchambers did much more. In weeks of steady rehearsal his infectious devotion to the job had won from his singers and players that sureness and alertness, that responsive and responsible team work, which constitute for them the crowning value of a production of this kind and for the spectators the basis of their enjoyment.
Mr. Skinner, the Assistant Musical Director, had had charge of the training of the soloists. The music was thoroughly known; a splendid standard of audibility was maintained; and in every respect Mr. Skinner had admirably exploited the material at his command.
The work of the Producer, Mr. Gerald Matthews, was in evidence in a hundred gestures and groupings, and appreciation of it is implicit in much of what has been written above.
Suffice it to add that fans were flicked with flawless precision and that there was never a falter in the movements of the principals or the peregrinations of the chorus; and to recall two outstanding movements: the entrance of the chorus in backward moving phalanx as they heralded the Mikado, and the groupings that accompanied "The flowers that bloom in the spring," with Pooh-Bah on one knee before Pitti-Sing, for all the world an ecstatic bishop of the Middle Age.
Reckless of candle-power Mr. Arthur and his assistants gave us the radiant Nippon of prohibitive cruises, but lacked either the courage or the equipment for an effective spotlight on Katisha in the gloaming of the first finale.
The opera was lavishly mounted. But it played to crowded houses and, notwithstanding the expenses entailed, a substantial profit resulted. For this the credit is largely due to Mr.Watson and Mr.Durrant, the Advertising Managers, and to Mr.Rayner, who, supported by Mr.Emery, pursued the sale of tickets of every price and hue with immense calm and energy. Further valuable services were rendered by Mr. Hyde and F.C.Carpenter, who were accompanists at the rehearsals; by Mr. Brobyn, who helped with the make-up; and by Mrs. Curl and her helpers, who were responsible for the fitting of the costumes.
Co-operating long and loyally under Mr. Belchambers' energetic captaincy, this large and multifarious company gave us performances of high endeavour and solid achievement, most musical, fair and gay.
The most remarkable feature of this production was what one might term its "universality." The whole School took it to ~ heart, gave advice, whistled the airs, and even the prefects, those lords of creation, might sometimes be detected humming a tune from this most tuneful opera. By the end of last term interest had increased tenfold, and the actual production was very well attended by members of the School as well as by their parents. I am told that this last production was better than that in 1936; being unable to compare myself. I can only say that this one was excellent.
'The opera itself is admirably suited for a school production: it demands a large cast, little scenery, a modicum of acting ability, and the all-important period costume which does so much to transform schoolboys into elegant young ladies. The scenery was sufficient to suggest the location without crowding it with unnecessary detail; it was greatly enhanced by the use of an effective cyclorama. Thanks are due to Mr. Starbuck for his hours of work on the scenery and to Mr. Brobyn for his excellent lighting effects. The make-up and costumes could hardly have been improved. Mr. Hyde, the producer, who was unfortunately ill for part of the term, managed his side of the production admirably.'
The chorus work, apart from an occasional incoherence, was excellent. The girls' chorus, in particular, almost stole the show, for their choruses were sung with a natural grace and charm that appealed greatly to the audience. An air of abandon marked the pirates' chorus and was fully in keeping with their part. They sang well, as did the chorus of police, which, however, detracted from its performance on Friday and Saturday by an inclination towards over-emphasis notable in one or two members. Their acting tended to be overdone in places, and thus lost some of its effect. It should be remembered that Gilbert and Sullivan are restrainedly funny; their humour lies more in delicate wit, choice of word and the suggestion of the music than in mere buffoonery.
Among the principals I selected Thurbon (playing RUTH) as giving the best individual performance, both for singing and acting. Not only was his voice clear and his singing effortless, he knew just the right qualities of wistfulness and expression for his part. He was clearly audible throughout the hall and his voice maintained a most pleasing tone. Chaplin (as the Pirate King) also possesses these qualities of good tone and audibility which are the aims of every singer. When Chaplin and Thurbon combined forces, the effect could hardly have been surpassed by professional singers.
Davies deserves special mention because of his good performance as MABEL and also because he undertook this difficult role at very short notice (a fact that was not generally known and could with advantage have been announced at each performance). Considering that he had only a fortnight to learn the part, his performance was really brilliant, and any that may have censured his acting will find here the reason for his omission of the finer points of expression. He is to be congratulated on his success in a part of great technical difficulty.
Round was adequate in his role as FREDERICK, showing to best advantage in his duet with MABEL and in his solo. His singing at times was a little forced and his tone suffered in consequence. This flaw was offset by his faultless acting. Collins slightly marred a fine performance as the SERGEANT by a proneness to overacting, a lead which was, most unfortunately, followed by the police chorus. On Wednesday and Thursday his performance was restrained and suitable, but on Friday and
Saturday he tended to exaggerate the humour of the part. His voice, nevertheless, was admirable in tone and power - it was, indeed, one the best in the cast.
Efficient in their parts were Brown (the MAJOR-GENERAL) and Harpin (Sam). The girls' chorus was ably led by Collins (EDITH), who showed an enjoyment of his part that could not fail to please.
TATE (Mills) sang well, but acted somewhat stiffly.
The whole cast was supported by an excellent orchestra, which was, with the exception of the leader Mr. Adler, entirely amateur. It was ably conducted by Mr. Belchambers, the musical director. Special praise is due to Mr. Norman Bignell, who never failed to attend a rehearsal even when the times were inconvenient for him.
The Headmaster on the last night of The Pirates' of Penzance congratulated the whole cast and all who had been concerned in the production. Seldom before, in fact, has the School enjoyed greater success than in this popular production of one of Gilbert and Sullivan's best known operas.
The excellence of the Operatic Society's production of Gilbert and Sullivan's opera came as a considerable surprise to many who saw it. Many people had felt that the Society had "bitten off more than it could chew," and could only hope the production would not be too bad. How wrong they were was proved by the acclaim of four different audiences.
The Pirates owed its triumph to a happy combination of the efforts of a great many people. Firstly, much of its success was derived from the excellence of the setting. The scenery was simple but most effective, creating just the impression required, while the lighting and in particular the cyclorama suited the subject in a truly professional style.
The orchestra, under the leadership of Mr. Belchambers, performed admirably and their success gives an indication of the efforts they must have made in rehearsing. Their task was one to attract many kicks but few halfpence. If one can criticise then it can only be to say that at times they tended to drown the rather thin voices of the "girls."
The very large cast was on the whole well managed, although at times one felt they had been grouped a little too obviously. The greatest praise is due to the "girls" who ravished the hearts of many of the audience. As one visitor remarked:
"They were more girlish than girls." And, indeed, there were only a few mistakes in their bearing. The pirates were quite piratical but lacked ease a little-however, they provided a good chorus. The policemen were the comic highlights of the show and in their appearance would have done credit to New Scotland Yard itself!
To attempt to criticise the characters is to play with fire since opinions have varied so much. Thurbon's Ruth, "piratical maid-of-all-work," was natural and unforced, with the voice carried clearly in a hall which is acoustically bad, gave what was the best performance of any of the girls. In considering the heroine it is to be remembered that Davis undertook the part barely a fortnight before the performance With this handicap his performance was excellent though had some difficulty in reaching the highest notes. Ifor Davis's departure to live in Wales is a minor tragedy for the School. Collins as Edith impressed everyone with his becoming smile and natural ease, while Twyman made an attractive Isabel.
Round as Frederick was the best of the cast in the opinion of many people. A fine tenor voice, considerable acting ability and undeniable good looks made him admirably suited to his part. It is to be regretted that he and Davis never felt equal to giving an encore of their duet in the second act. Chaplin was confident in his portrayal of the Pirate King and deserves the highest congratulation. Collins gave what was nearly a perfect interpretation of the Sergeant, but unfortunately marred his performance by a tendency to over-act. Harpin as Sam was adequate but his part did not allow his ability sufficient scope. Brown, who may be an indifferent singer, certainly made a superb Major-General. His solo ("I am the very model a model major-general") in the first Act was one of the highlights of the production.
But it is hardly fair to praise individuals too much. The production was a success wrought by a group of people many whom were never, or hardly ever, seen by the audience. Mrs. Curl and Mrs. Belchambers; Miss Lee and Miss Holme; Messers Belchambers, Brobyn, Buck, Honer, Hyde, Lidbury, Rayner and Starbuck. On the whole the writer - originally a sceptic - can only praise the production which he believes reached if not not surpassed, the standard of any previous School performance. In conclusion, he must regret that the Head's singing ability - only revealed at the end of the last performance - was not discovered earlier!
Keith J Bridge
If an after-dinner speaker starts his speech with the time-worn phrase "Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking," he is almost doomed to failure: and yet, I know of no other manner in which I can completely express my position. The field of dramatic criticism is notorious for its "closed-shop" policy and yet here am I, a complete outsider, venturing into its sacred preserves.
It may be taken as axiomatic that one can write only of what one sees, and so my remarks must be concerned only with the performance on Friday. March 31st. To say that the evening was enjoyable is to express only mildly my feelings as the simple yet satirical story unwound. The appearance of Peep-Bo early in the evening beautifully costumed and by both gesture and smile playing her part to perfection, aroused the liveliest anticipation of pleasurable moments to come.
The mention of one costume leads on quite naturally to those of all other members of the cast, and I have nothing but praise for all concerned. The exquisite colouring and the almost magical genius of the dressers who persuaded the costumes to fit so well leave me almost helpless in a frenzy of admiration. And now to personalities in the order in which they appear on the programme.
In a comparatively short appearance Norfolk played the Mikado with great zest and enthusiasm. The sadistic glee, which he infused into his voice during his singing of "The Punishment and the Crime" could hardly have been bettered. He wore his costume well and on the stage his bearing and dignity were both satisfactory and sustained.
The part of Nanki - Poo was put over with a remarkably high degree of success by Pritchard. With a very pleasant singing voice he swept through his part, so obviously enjoying himself that one finds it easy to forgive his minor faults and mistakes of stagecraft.
The part of Ko-Ko played by B. C. Brown provides many of the highlights of the play and calls for dramatic ability of a high order. That he succeeded admirably throughout the evening gives a fair impression of the sustained quality of his acting; his facial gestures during the " Tit Willow" song were indeed worthy of Groucho Marx his best. Unfortunately, especially during the latter scenes, he tended to mouth the parts of other characters-a fault which I am informed is due to the amount of help he had given other members of the cast during rehearsals.
The cynical, sneering and corrupt Pooh-Bah was well played by H.W. Spencer, who although loaded with much surplus avoirdupois still retained a lordly bearing in all his movements and gestures. Tall, slight and dear spoken, A.J. Knock was indeed a Noble Lord. His manner and deportment left nothing to be desired. He carefully enunciated each word and seemed to lend added weight every sentence and syllable of his part.
To play the part of the irritatingly vacillating Yum -Yum must at all times be a difficult task: all the more credit then to Chapman for the charming manner in which he presented her. Possessing a pleasant, if not penetrating, singing voice, he seemed much more confident in the songs than in the dialogue.
Both Barnes and Pritchard moved, acted and sang extremely well: at all times they even looked like girls: there could be no greater praise for the manner in which these two youngsters carried off their parts.
Rider's Katisha suffered from the disadvantage of being occasionally inaudible. To play the part of an unlovely and universally disliked lady calls for a high degree of self-confidence, and Rider acquitted himself in a very praiseworthy manner.
Of the two choruses, I think the girls deserve rather more of praise. They looked, sang and acted like girls: but both choruses carried out their parts extremely well and the timing of their gestures speaks of much hard work during rehearsals.
Under the very able direction of Mr. Belchambers, the orchestra put over the animated and charming music extremely well. Always "easy on the ear" they were never too obtrusive and never did they "crowd out" the performers on the stage.
Possibly the most striking pointer to the quality of the production was the grace with which the performers took their places in a series of really charming stage-groups. Never crowded, even during those scenes when the whole chorus was on view, the stage often presented a picture of lovely colour and surprising beauty: a fact which speaks well for the artistic imagination and hard work of the producer.
From among so many who had obviously done much hard work it seems invidious to mention individuals. To players, orchestra producers, dressers, etc., the School owes a real debt of gratitude. The Mikado was a courageous and excellent production, which proved a worthy successor to The Pirates.
A note from The Producer
A production requiring a company of 43 and an orchestra of 20 must, if it is to be a success, be a happy one, and ours this year was unusually so. For we had no one in the cast who did not see the work as a whole, no one who did not appreciate the need for fitting himself into the pattern which was the whole work. When rehearsal was really under way few changes had to be made, and in all three of them the member relinquishing the part suggested his successor. We were fortunate also in the versatility of many members: Pish-Tush could, and often did, sing any part required: Ko-Ko knew all the dialogue and was a most useful prompter: Spencer, Brown and Patterson accompanied at sight and held frequent solo rehearsals.
We invested early in a copy of the libretto supplied by D'Oyly Carte, which gives general directions as to production. This because of its cover, was known as The Red Book" and it was read with enthusiasm by most of the company. Interest centred on our substitution of groupings and stage pictures for movements and dispositions impossible on our small stage; and the company was full of suggestions as, for example, the best way to take eight strides forward in a space of some twelve inches. Such matters as the contrast of style of walking between stately nobles and tittering schoolgirls was quickly appreciated, but far, far more slowly realised, and then only after much patient rehearsal. But careful attention at rehearsal resulted in performances that were smooth, slick and Japanese (operatic style!).
We also had and appreciated help from many. Mr.Bewick, Twyman anti Ashton designed and painted excellent scenery. Mr. Hall made us a really lovely Japanese arch which, like the Pagoda, was to Mr Bewick's design: Twyman and Ashton with floral sprays and splashes of green disguised flats not clear, clean or in the least suitable as background for Japanese scenes or costumes, but of an indescribable, bilious colour.
The orchestra consisting of three boys and O.M.s and parents was ably led by P. A. Timberlake. We should all have liked more rehearsal, but the parts were available only for the statutory three weeks and not for some two or three months as in previous productions. But the orchestra gave firm and tactful support to a company whose capacity for hard work they admired.
Our regular accompanist, N. A. C. Bignell, gave his generous and very useful help from the start until the beginning of March when he fell ill. He and we hoped that he would have been well enough to play for the production. He was not able to come and see even the last performance and it was ten weeks before he could return He was disappointed and so were we all. I am glad to say he is quite fit again. His place was taken at very short notice by Timms and we were grateful for his excellent work.
Our own impressions are of a happy company whose work gave them and us much pleasure. We are also grateful to the Headmaster for a beautiful set of photographs, twenty-eight in all, which will serve as a permanent reminder of an enjoyable season.
It was with great optimism that we looked forward to the performance of H.M.S. Pinafore on the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th of April by members of the choir, orchestra and Dramatic Society. As we had heard the wonderful way in which Mr. Moffatt had trained the choir and orchestra and had seen the two previous productions by Mr. Jones, we therefore expected to see a superb performance of to quote the programme "that very popular comic opera", by W. S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan.
The fifteen piece orchestra. consisting of members and friends of the school had to be placed so that they did not distract the eye from the stage. This was achieved by placing it in the extremely small space to the left of the stage, in the auditorium. After the rousing overture the curtains opened to display a professionally decorated stage: a quarter deck complete with capstan, mast and rope ladders. The whole set produced the colour and atmosphere necessary for such a production, and thanks must go to Mr. Buckle, Mr. Harrisson and assistants who created it.
It is difficult to review a play without having to mention particular names, although the part played by each person has its own significance. Special tribute must be paid, however, to the major characters of the opera. Anthony Turner played to his usual high standard as the Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B. He acted the part of the slightly deaf and fumbling man with accuracy and assuredness. Captain Corcoran played by Peter Freshney both from the acting and singing performance would have been difficult to better. David Chattertons strong voice was well employed in his part as Ralph Rackstraw, whilst Christopher Bishop and Nicolas Common were outstanding amongst the crew. The boys who played the parts of Josephine (Leslie Smith), Hebe (Michael Higgins) and Mrs. Cripps (Leslie Hollingbery) must be commended on their overcoming the difficult task of taking female roles.
The crew added to the nautical atmosphere of the opera and the First Lord's sisters, cousins and aunts were so well made up that several of the audience thought they were actually girls. The singing was to an exceptionally high standard. and all the cast must be congratulated on the pleasure it gave to the audience. At the end of the performance many of the audience were to be heard humming and whistling one of the many refrains from the opera.
Mr. Jones and Mr. Moffatt must be congratulated on their magnificent production of H.M.S. Pinafore and the school must surely thank them for the hard work they put into the production. Also to be thanked is everybody else who helped behind the scenes and who the audience never see but without whom the opera would not have been one of the best-ever school productions.
G.A.Swan 6B.Lit. and D.Stewart 6B.Sci.