Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
Mayflower Theatre,
March 1988
Director: Pam Hoskins
Cast List
Major-General Stanley
The Pirate King
Sergeant of Police
Jamie the Boy Pirate

Notes on this performance

69. The Pirates of Penzance 

Stick or twist…

Forming the Junior Section was only part of the ‘Future of the Society’ sub-committee’s recommendations; the other main objective was to move out of the Guildhall as it was becoming increasingly difficult to produce shows there that might make a profit. So, when the Leisure Services wrote requesting the 1988 deposit for the venue, they were informed that the Society was considering performing at the Mayflower Theatre (as the Gaumont was now called).

Jim Chilvers and Peter Hill liaised with the Mayflower’s manager, Dennis Hall, and discovered that the venture would be an expensive one and time was needed to consider the consequences. Eventually, an EGM was called and it was explained that the theatre would cost £8000 (compared to £2500 at The Guildhall), the overall budget would be £21,500 and, with only £2537 in the bank, it could lead to bankruptcy for the Society and the trustees being liable for the debt. However, the Business Manager, Jim Chilvers, convinced the meeting that the move was viable - provided everyone made a big effort to sell tickets.

A proven good selling show (preferably without any royalties) was essential and The Pirates of Penzance appeared to ‘fit the bill’ and then a tried, tested and successful directing team was also very desirable – step forward Pam Hoskins and Philip Johnson. Ken Spencer returned as set designer and somehow created a three dimensional rocky cliff-side on the stage – unfortunately, it really did rock and some of the cast refused to make their entrance via the path leading down from the top.

Pam was renowned for her innovations and this show did not disappoint – the pirates formed a tableau during the overture while Ted Starks stood on a rock smoking a large clay pipe (the smell of piratical tobacco smoke gradually filled the auditorium), the girls did not suggest that they should ‘take off their shoes and stockings and paddle’ but eagerly prepared to go ‘skinny-dipping’ instead and then there was Queen Victoria! Mary Huggins, dressed in black, with her favourite gillie (John Burrows) took her place in the ‘royal box’ for the National Anthem to watch proceedings and became the focal point when the pirates surrendered in ‘Queen Victoria’s name’. One of the policemen was a woman (Debbie Parker) wearing an ‘interesting’ uniform and Gilbert & Sullivan (Albert Minns & Ken Spencer) took their bows at the curtain call.

The review in the Echo considered the show to be ‘lively, colourful and, most of all, good fun. Apart from the odd sign of nerves, most of the cast showed plenty of confidence. The choreography for the chorus scenes is notable – there is plenty of movement and everyone kept in time. Most of the lead roles acted well, although the singing was not always of the highest quality. Top marks to Allen Mansell as Frederic though: he was excellent throughout and has a superb voice.’

It was an enormous risk to take but, thankfully for the future of SOS, it worked - many tickets were sold and Pirates made an impressive profit of £4425.

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Frederic

Allen Mansell (Frederic) and Claire Hazelwood (Mabel) with the Major-General's daughters

Photo of Stanley

Philip de Grouchy (Major-General Stanley) with the flag alongside Wendy Dalton (Kate), Claire Buston (Edith) and Emma Olden (Isabel)

Photo of Finale

Centre: Colin Sly (The Pirate King), Philip de Grouchy (Major-General Stanley), David Jupp (Sergeant of Police), Catherine Baker (Ruth)