Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
Nuffield Theatre,
July 2014
Director: Victoria Luke
Cast List
Major-General Stanley
The Pirate King
Sergeant of Police

Notes on this performance

123. The Pirates of Penzance 

We don’t seem to make piracy pay…

David Tatnall was expected to direct the Society’s latest production of The Pirates of Penzance. He had plans to resurrect an idea that he used with DYT in 2002 in which the ‘pirates’ were actually evacuees sent to Cornwall whilst the ladies’ chorus became members of the local Girl Guide Troup. Initially the Committee seemed interested in the concept but once one member expressed concerns about the entire company acting as ten year olds, others followed and the idea was shelved (including a Paradox / Pair of Ducks routine). It would have been interesting to see how the vision was accepted at Harrogate (the new home of the International G&S Festival) but, after the views of the adjudicator on the last visit, enthusiasm for that project had also waned.

Vic Luke, however, was tempted to try her hand at a G&S production and with Nigel Finch as MD, they planned a lively, traditional version. Rehearsals for the men began with lessons in sword fighting and some of the younger members, notably Dominic Sly, Toby McLellan and Matthew Pike (Samuel), achieved an impressive standard. Unfortunately, once the action was transferred to the pirates’ galleon on the Nuffield stage, there was little room to brandish a sword realistically. The ship was quite spectacular. It had been previously used in a pantomime and was exactly what Vic needed but as nobody was willing to make the set it had to be hired. The future of Nursling as a resource would now become a major concern for the Committee as its lack of use, coupled with a large rent increase, had turned it into a drain on the Society’s finances. 

The costumes were a striking feature of this show. The Wardrobe Team (Jan Sly, Penny Hawkesworth and Maureen Street) had worked tirelessly to create new colourful dresses for the ladies and they lit up the stage. Indeed, the ladies’ chorus itself was formidable - the slickness of their routines matched their fine attire.

Alan Johns of the Echo, cleverly made use of the Chairmen’s reference to the 1931 production in the programme notes: ‘Director Victoria Luke delivered an extremely colourful show, starting with some light-hearted activity during the overture from Nigel Finch’s fine orchestra. Frederic (enthusiastically played by Paul Dawson-Plincke) seems condemned to an extended apprenticeship as a pirate, instead of one as a pilot. Vicky Dodimead never fails to delight and does so again with great facial-expression and comic-timing as Ruth, thwarted in her affections for naïve Frederic by the arrival of a bevy of beauties. Of these, Mabel catches his eye and the experienced Melanie Mastrototaro makes an impressive leading-lady. Mike Pavitt is excellent as the Major General, with Roger Lamb (Pirate King) and Peter Hill (Sergeant) both on top-form. The sets (hilarious shark-malfunction included) were top-notch, as were the costumes. Reviewed favourably in 1931, the current Chairmen hoped that this show would also receive the thumbs-up. It’s a yes from me!’

The budget was based optimistically on selling 1100 tickets but Pirates fell short of that target by 110 and made a disappointing loss of £3583 – fortunately the ladies’ costumes are likely to be used in many future shows…

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Mabel and Frederic

Melanie Mastrototaro (Mabel) and Paul Dawson-Plincke (Frederic)

 Photo of Major General

Mike Pavitt (Major General Stanley) with Roger Lamb (Pirate King) and Matthew Pike (Samuel)

Photo of Trio

Roger Lamb (Pirate King), Paul Dawson-Plincke (Frederic) and Vicky Dodimead (Ruth)

Photo of Police

Peter Hill (Sergeant of Police) with his men

Photo in Graveyard

Mike Pavitt (Major General Stanley) and Roger Lamb (Pirate King) in the Graveyard

Photo of Seizing

Matthew Pike (Samuel), April Luescher (Edith), Melanie Mastrototaro (Mabel), Paul Dawson-Plincke (Frederic)