Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
The Guildhall,
March 1955
Cast List
Major-General Stanley
The Pirate King
Sergeant of Police

Notes on this performance

28. The Pirates of Penzance & Trial by Jury

The tax man cometh…

W O Skinner was a very conscientious Business Manager and, despite the healthy profit made by the last production, was obviously concerned by escalating costs. He cut down on outgoings by mainly restricting publicity to advertisements on buses and suggested that members helped to defray the cost of hiring costumes by paying a donation. However, it seemed a simpler solution to raise the annual subscription for acting members from 12/6 (63p) to £1 and this was proposed at the AGM; those present were not very impressed though and voted against the motion 17 - 29. 

The Committee considered performing The Mikado in the coming year but thought it unwise to follow one popular opera with another and instead settled on a double bill of Trial by Jury and The Pirates of Penzance. Alfred Tomalin and D Cecil Williams remained in charge and they held principal auditions early in October – yet again Tom Judd could not attend on that evening and it seemed simpler to ‘allot him the part of the Major General without audition’. There was, however, concern about the erratic attendance of some members at committee meetings (the main culprit being the Chairman, Robert Hughes) and D Cecil Williams suggested that publicising members’ records of attendance would be a sensible course of action.

A bigger worry was a letter from the Inland Revenue claiming Income Tax on the profits made by the Society since 1946/47. In view of the potential seriousness of the matter, it was agreed to refer it to NODA or some professional accountants.

The Echo report lavished praise on the one act opera, ‘Trial by Jury, with Bernard Harman as the learned judge, Jennifer Maffey as the beautiful plaintiff, and Walter Urry as the defendant, was a perfect curtain-raiser. Jurymen do not usually sing so well as the society’s twelve good men and true, and many members of the bar could take lessons from the counsel for the plaintiff (Raymond Harris) in the gentle art of swaying juries by singing.’

For The Pirates of Penzance, Tom Judd received his usual rave review, ‘The verbal contortions that are necessary for the part were ably mastered by Tom Judd,’ but others were mentioned; ‘Bert Clague was fiercely swashbuckling, and Frederic (John Hoskins) brought a fine voice to a difficult part. Winifred Barrett was a splendid Mabel and Pamela Hoskins, Pamela Ransome and Shirley Young were equally attractive as the general’s other daughters. Ruth was played by Marjorie Kennedy who, I thought, had the best voice of the whole company. Other singers who deserve a mention are Bruce Ellery (Sergeant of Police) and Basil Smith (Samuel).’

Although the plea for more Vice Presidents largely fell on deaf ears, Trial by Jury and The Pirates of Penzance still made a small profit of £31 15s 9d (£31.79) – costs were similar to the previous year but audience numbers were significantly lower. The Society continued to donate to charities and £50 was shared between St John’s Ambulance Brigade, the Dockland Settlement and King George’s Fund for Sailors. 

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Police

Bruce Ellery (Sergeant of Police) with his men.