Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
The Guildhall,
March 1994
Cast List
Pirate King
Major-General Stanley
Sergeant of Police

Notes on this performance

80. The Pirates of Penzance                                                                        

Rats in North Guild…

It was not only SOS that lost heavily on its last excursion to the Mayflower, SMS and STP had also suffered large financial losses so it was time for the three amateur groups to move out and consider alternative venues. Since 1987, the Guildhall had undergone a refurbishment and had re-branded itself as North Guild so the Committee decided to perform The Pirates of Penzance there. Fran Morley, who had made a big impression when directing HMS Pinafore, and Margaret Hughes, who had acted as MD for seven successful Junior Section shows, were engaged as the Directing Team, guaranteeing a happy and lively production from the very first rehearsal.

Fran’s imaginative mind was evident before the show even started; a map of Cornwall with a red spot over Penzance and a ‘You are here’ sign was beamed onto the curtains and, when they opened, the set consisted of a big red spot! The pirates were cartoon characters, eye patches, peg legs and scars aplenty and everyone had a bird perched on his shoulder – just occasionally a parrot. The problem of clearing the set after a scene was resolved by employing twelve ‘juniors’ as rats from the ship and they even had their own song to sing as they did their work – The Pi-rats.

Paul Benzing, a fight co-ordinator, was brought in to orchestrate the scrimmage between the pirates and the police. The scene may have only covered a few bars of music but the rehearsal to perfect the 30 seconds of action took a whole Sunday afternoon with all 47 performers having choreographed moves. 

Angela Mackie’s portrayal of Ruth involved a lot of ‘gun play’ and frantic ducking from those on stage with her, whilst Colin Sly, in one performance, confused everyone by singing the Major General’s verses in the wrong order. Some policemen also had the chance to enter into the spot light, Alan Marshall acted out the felon as Alan Morgan sang A Policeman’s Lot and John Miller caused chaos banging a big bass drum as he bumped into everyone throughout When the Foeman Bares his Steel.

Sue Wilkinson’s report in the Echo made up for the previous effort and even included a picture of Christine Smith and Douglas Ross in costume. She wrote, ‘The audience found gold in the voices of the principals including Richard Wilkin as Frederic and Janet Green as Mabel and an orchestra playing smoother than calm waters. David Jupp’s Pirate King had more than a touch of Black Beard; Colin Sly’s Major General was a model of perfection and Angela Mackie was outstanding as Ruth. 

But the chorus, in this instance, is not mere padding, with the policemen and pirates given the kind of comic routines that steal shows. Producer Fran Morley introduces some gimmicks and a cute chorus in the form of the young Pi-rats but not so they get in the way of the best of G&S and SOS,’

Ticket sales were disappointing (only 40% sold) but, thanks to a generous grant of £3000 from City Arts, The Pirates of Penzance returned a profit of £1871.

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Frederic

Front L-R: Rosalind Zaragoza (Isabel), Lorraine Morgan (Edith), Janet Green (Mabel), Richard Wilkin (Frederic), Christina Smith (Kate)

Photo of Major-General

Front L-R: David Jupp (Pirate King), Colin Sly (Major-General Stanley), Richard Wilkin (Frederic), Janet Green (Mabel)