Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
Nuffield Theatre,
January 2006
Cast List
The Grand Duke Rudolph
Ernest Dummkopf
Doctor Tannhauser
The Prince of Monte Carlo
Ben Hashbaz (a Costumier)
The Princess of Monte Carlo
The Baroness von Krakenfeldt
Julia Jellicoe

Notes on this performance

104. The Grand Duke 

Storm-troopers at the Nuffield…

In the hopes that he would then have more time to spend on his business, Adam Case resigned as Chairman at the AGM and Terry O’Farrell took over. The first show on the agenda was quite a novelty as SOS was due to perform G&S’s last and least popular operetta, The Grand Duke, for the first time in its history. David Rayner was the obvious choice to direct it, whilst Martin Paterson joined him as MD.

It had been arranged to take The Grand Duke to the Buxton International G&S Festival in August and a large number of avid G&S followers turned up for the first rehearsal, including several new members. David had rightly gained a reputation for being adept at keeping the operas interesting by updating them, but it was not certain that this skill was now required as nobody knew the original anyway. However, he did and the company found themselves in 1930s Germany and all that that involves. 

New songs and routines were learnt and the show appeared to be a typical G&S until Prince Rudolph (Shaun Dodimead) made his appearance midway through Act 1; he was preceded by the men’s chorus (plus a couple of ladies) dressed as Nazi storm-troopers and they goose-stepped across the stage before forming a marching swastika. Some nights this scene produced laughter - on other occasions, deafening silence! The scenery in Act 2 was quite spectacular and was regularly greeted by spontaneous applause; enhancing it was a statue (played by a street artist wearing grey make up and grey briefs) and he produced genuine gasps of surprise when he suddenly came to life towards the end of the show.

The Echo review was an unusual one, the reporter wisely did not attempt to give an outline of the confusing story but also failed to mention any of the performers, instead relying on some quotes from David Rayner to fill space (omitted below), so it read more like publicity blurb. ‘If you thought that traditional Gilbert and Sullivan shows were boring and stuffy, get ready to change your view. Southampton Operatic Society’s new and innovative production of the Grand Duke is an energetic, lively production. The show, which is being performed at the Nuffield until tomorrow, offers audiences a great opportunity to enjoy this rarely performed classic. The show has storm-troopers protecting the Grand Duke, a conspiracy, protected by the secret sign of the sausage roll, and the inventor of roulette who arrives at the end of the show with his sexy croupiers who he hopes will seduce the Grand Duke and his staff.’

Jamie Moffat, who saw the show in Buxton, took the trouble to write from Australia; ‘It is no secret that this was a highly controversial production but I found this Grand Duke preferable to many mincing, watered down productions that I have seen. It dared to see Gilbert’s text as a black comedy. Few productions have such courage.’

Nobody expected The Grand Duke to sell well and the Committee even budgeted for a loss, but they were in for a surprise as people were genuinely interested (a group even flew in from Geneva to see it!) and it made an amazing profit of £2035.

Terry O'Farrell


Photo of Paul and Marie

Paul Webb (Ludwig) with Marie Creed-Helliwell (Lisa)

Photo of Mike and Alison

Mike Pavitt (Ernest Dummkopf) with Alison Vincent (Julia Jellico)

Photo of Grand Duke

Shaun Dodimead (Grand Duke Rudolph) and his Attendant (Adam Case) with the Stormtroopers

Photo of Janet and Paul

Janet Green (Baroness von Krakenfeldt) with Paul Webb (Ludwig)

Photo of Monte Carlo party

Rebecca Dale (Princess of Monte Carlo) with David Rayner (Prince of Monte Carlo) - in the background Jonathan Fulcher (Herald) and Richard Peaty (Costumier)

Photo of Statue

Shaun Dodimead (Grand Duke Rudolph) with Paul Webb (Ludwig) held by the Statue