Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
The Nuffield Theatre,
July 1985
Cast List
Sir Joseph Porter
Captain Corcoran
Ralph Rackstraw
Dick Deadeye
Bill Bobstay
Bob Becket
Litte Buttercup

Notes on this performance

64. HMS Pinafore

Hello sailor…

After three financially successful summer shows at The Nuffield, the Committee was taken aback by the poor box office showing of the previous year (not to mention the dismal efforts of the theatre to publicise it). Consequently, they began to consider other options, such as taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe, performing at the Minnack Theatre in Cornwall or in the open air at Titchfield, Netley or Mottisfont, even contemplating a series of concerts in local halls but, finally, they decided to give The Nuffield one more chance, this time with HMS Pinafore (a more reliable seller).

Encouraged by the success of Trial by Jury in the last summer show, Anne Starbuck was keen to produce again. She did not want an assistant but asked Lesley Wellman to act as Choreographer instead. Philip Johnson continued as MD (assisted by Pam Bennett) and Jan Sly took over as Wardrobe Mistress for the first time.

As usual, there was concern about the number willing to participate in the summer show (especially men) and Anne Starbuck set about trying to ‘press gang’ any reluctant members into action, but still ended up with a crew of just eleven. The principal auditions, however, saw every part covered and a stand-in selected for each. 

The Theatre Guild critique for Pinafore was very complementary about the production (it did, after all, win a Theatre Guild Award) and stated, ‘There are many things I liked in her production. The playing of some of the dialogue in a pure melodramatic vein, for instance, played seriously. The introduction of the attractive chorus line of Queen Victoria’s WRNS, displaying on their sterns first the letters of HMS PINAFORE, and then, with hilarious surprise, HELLO SAILOR! Throughout, this sort of inventive humour was well displayed, and the production was packed with ideas. There were things going on all the time – from deck-games to a lusty sailor trying to persuade into dalliance a sister or cousin and getting his face slapped and the hard-working and competent young midshipman actually catching a fish.

Paul Shakespeare gave us a well-thought out and more than competent portrayal of the First lord, with fine results. Captain Corcoran, in the experienced capable and safest hands of Colin Sly, became a dashing figure. Stephen Hill is a fine, strong, well-rounded tenor and gave us a most attractive and sympathetic performance as Ralph. David Jupp’s Dick Deadeye with his Quasimodo-like appearance was sufficiently unsympathetic for us to like him! Josephine, in the person of Anne Osborne, was quite lovely, so right in every way – appearance, attraction, acting and singing. Valerie Hickox’s Hebe was a figure of fun, and she made the most of her opportunities. Audrey Andrews, too, gave a fine performance as Buttercup and her lovely contralto, in addition to her acting, served well to underline this plum role.’

The ever-dependable HMS Pinafore made a profit of £1341 reducing fears of performing at The Nuffield and thoughts of the Edinburgh Fringe, The Minack Theatre or elsewhere in the open-air were forgotten (for a while).

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Ralph

 Left: Valerie Hickox (Hebe), Colin Sly (Captain Corcoran), Paul Shakespeare (Sir Joseph Porter)

Photo of Deck

Peter Hill (Bob Becket), Valerie Hickox (Hebe), Bill Bobstay (David Jary), Stephen Hill (Ralph Rackstraw), David Jupp (Dick Deadeye), Audrey Andrews (Little Buttercup)

Photo of Bells

Paul Shakespeare (Sir Joseph Porter), Anne Osborne (Josephine), Colin Sly (Captain Corcoran)