Words by W. S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
The Guildhall,
March 1983
Director: Pam Hoskins
Cast List
The Mikado

Notes on this performance

59a. The Mikado

A star is born…

The last two shows at the Guildhall had made a loss of £3000 between them so it was definitely time for another production of The Mikado. Pamela Hoskins (again assisted by Anne Starbuck) returned as the Producer and Philip Johnson had become a fixture in the role of MD.  Initially, Bob Gibson was asked to be Stage Manager but he was getting frustrated at having to re-audition every time he missed a show to take on this responsibility and also maintained that he should have a much larger say in the design and building of the set and lighting. The Committee turned to Ken Spencer to build the set and be the Stage Manager.

The casting was carried out earlier than usual and the Chairman, Sally Thompson, was soon approached by a member with a number of complaints regarding the conduct of the auditions – as the concerns were not in writing they were dismissed. However, soon after a letter relating to the casting and the split chorus was received and the Secretary was instructed to pen a reply supporting the Casting Committee’s selections. Unaware of this, Pam Hoskins threatened not to produce for the Society again unless she had the backing of the Committee. It is not made clear in the minutes, but it is quite likely that these complaints were related to the casting of a very young newcomer as Yum-Yum – Pam Hoskins could obviously see potential in Claire Rutter who, from these humble beginnings, went on to become an internationally acclaimed soprano.

In an interview published in the Echo, Pam stated, ‘It is a difficult opera to produce, mainly because of the large number of people we have on stage at any one time, and that means working out movements for the whole cast throughout every sequence. The Mikado himself is a sinister character, who dominates and terrifies all, with the exception of Katisha his elected daughter-in-law. As he is the Emperor of Japan, it is vital he should be played by an actor with great elegance and stage presence, as a commanding performance is called for.’ The actual Echo review of the show reveals that her casting was spot on: ‘Outstanding among the principal characters was Colin Sly as The Mikado. An elaborate setting made his entrance spectacular and his magnificent costume and natural stage presence could not have been bettered.’ Unfortunately the critic seems to have overlooked Claire Rutter’s debut as a principal! 

Philip Johnson did report that he felt the orchestra had not been up to standard and Ken Spencer regretted that nobody arrived to help erect the set on the Sunday morning but, on the bright side, Pam Hoskins said that, despite the difficulties in producing The Mikado, she felt it had been the best that she had produced so far and a happy show. She also claimed that both the principals and chorus had given their best but their performance had been slightly marred by the orchestra and the stage lighting.

Business Manager, Brian Howard, however was a happy man. His plan to cover the city with posters by making members responsible for particular areas seems to have paid dividends and The Mikado made a profit of £2008.

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Maids

A publicity shot featuring Jillian Charnley (Pitti-Sing), Claire Rutter (Yum-Yum) and Claire Buston (Peep-Bo)

Photo of Mikado

Philip de Grouchy (Ko-Ko) surrounded by the Gentlemen of Japan