Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Sir Arthur Sullivan
Nuffield Theatre,
June 2013
Cast List
Josephine / The Plaintiff
Sir Joseph Porter / The Judge
Captain Corcoran / The Counsel
Ralph Rackstraw / The Defendant
Dick Deadeye
Bill Bobstay / The Usher
Bob Beckett / The Foreman
Tom Tucker
Little Buttercup
Jessie the Cat
Cousin Celerity
Great Aunt Maud

Notes on this performance

121. HMS Pinafore & Trial by Jury 

Two for the price of one…

HMS Pinafore is a mainstay of any respectable G&S group’s repertoire (SOS has now produced it nine times) but it does have its own special problem – it is too short! In 1878 (when Gilbert and Sullivan first brought it to the stage), it did not really matter as it was often paired with one or two other operettas but today people expect to be entertained by one show of reasonable length for their evening at the theatre.

In the past SOS has tried adding extra songs and dialogue, another scene or, in the early days, pairing it with a one act opera but the end result often felt disjointed and awkward, so the Committee was intrigued by David Tatnall’s suggestion of actually combining Pinafore and Trial to make one story. The first part (Pinafore) followed Ralph’s pursuit of Josephine but later their romance took a turn for the worse and she ended up suing him for ‘breach of promise of marriage’. It was a good idea as the two operettas were from the same source and, once Alison Vincent was recruited to make her debut as an SOS MD and a few necessary script alterations were made, a thoroughly enjoyable rehearsal period was under way. 

Transforming two shows into one proved a little confusing for the Echo reporter but he did seem to enjoy the performance: ‘Two short Gilbert and Sullivan operettas were woven together by director David Tatnall to create a full length show. It was a bold move, but for any audience members familiar with the genre it proved confusing. This didn’t distract from the quality of the performances, and with a cast-list that boasted many local G&S A-listers, their enthusiasm helped to overcome any head-scratching about what we were watching after the interval. 

Mike Pavitt initially starred as Captain Corcoran, upset that his daughter, Josephine (an assured performance from Katherine Evans), had fallen for sailor Ralph Rackstraw (Matt Harris). Abigail Miller sparkled as feisty crew-sweetheart Little Buttercup and Richard Patient was a convincingly idiotic Dick Deadeye. The second act slowly-but-surely became the Matt Sturgeon Show playing his role as The Judge for well-deserved laughs. Great ensemble work, colourful set and costumes, with a class orchestra, all contributed to a pleasant, if somewhat unsettling, evening.’

The ‘unsettling’ comment was most probably due to the numerous ‘Tatnall-isms’ that featured in the show, most notably Brian Quantrill played the role of Aunt Bessie (complete with knitting), two of the sailors appeared as bridesmaids and the Judge chose to marry Ralph in preference to Josephine! David admitted to having enjoyed the experience of directing Pinafury more than most and was particularly effusive about the lively and youthful members of the chorus – it was indeed pleasing to see principals from Beauty and the Beast happily contributing to the chorus’ efforts.

HMS Pinafore made a profit of £1018 and was later successfully reworked by Sarah Fulcher for performances at The Berry Theatre as part of a G&S festival and Beaulieu Abbey (which further helped the Society’s finances).

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Little Buttercup

Abigail Miller (Little Buttercup) with the men's chorus

 Photo of Crew

Mike Pavitt (Captain Corcoran) with his crew - Front Row: Matthew Harris (Ralph Rackstraw), Dominic Sly, Jason Sly, Matthew Pike, Joseph Wright, Philip Bailey, Jonathan Fulcher (Bill Bobstay)

Photo of Cast

Richard Patient (Dick Deadeye) warns Matthew Harris (Ralph Rackstraw) whilst Katy Lewis puts her drawers back on!

Photo of Duet

Richard Patent (Dick Deadeye), Katherine Evans (Josephine), Peter Hill (sailor), Matthew Harris (Ralph Rackstraw), April Luescher (Hebe)

Photo of Trial

Trial by Jury section - Abigail Miller (Buttercup), Matthew Harris (The Defendant), Katherine Evans (The Plaintiff)

Photo of End of Trial

Matt Sturgeon (The Judge) chooses Matt Harris (The Defendant) watched by Abigail Miller (Buttercup), Mike Pavitt (The Counsel), Katherine Evans (The Plaintiff)