Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
Nuffield Theatre,
January 2004
Cast List
Major-General Stanley
The Pirate King
Sergeant of Police

Notes on this performance

100. The Pirates of Penzance


The success achieved by Princess Ida at Buxton (the bastion of tradition) caused the Committee to consider how the Society might fare if it took a conventional version of a show there. Consequently David Rayner (Director) and Martin Paterson (MD) set about creating a production of The Pirates of Penzance that would not upset even the most died-in-the-wool G&S fanatic.

It might have been wiser, therefore, not to have the pirates dressed as Lords from the very beginning nor to start with Frederic (Ralph Bateman) receiving the bumps as the chorus sang Happy Birthday to You, but the show did then (give or take some risqué double entendres) follow the usual conventions. The disparity in heights between Frederic and Mabel also became a running joke as, every time they embraced, he had to climb on a box to reach her.

The Pirates of Penzance is always a lively show and this production did not disappoint. The Major General had more than his fair share of daughters (27!) who carried off the dance sequences (choreographed by Lesley Shipp and Anita Pritchard) with gusto and, for the second year running, SOS won the Best Animated Chorus Award at Buxton. The adjudicator finished her comments with: ‘A company who work well together and their enthusiasm and energy is admirable. Looking for the humour at every turn. The stars of the evening were the chorus, involved from the beginning to end. I wish them continued success and congratulate them on their charity work for children. Long may they thrive as they move into their ninth decade’.

David Jupp led the high-kicking police as the Sergeant and Colin Sly was the swashbuckling Pirate King – they had previously played the same roles in the 1988 production, whereas in 1994, David was the King and Colin the Major General.

The Echo review was also very complementary: ‘Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penance, that enduring, extremely British operetta full of fast rhymes and delightful wordplay is given more than adequate treatment by the Southampton Operatic Society. This colourful, humorous and witty production was admirably directed by David Rayner, and Martin Paterson (MD) did a wonderful job with the music.

The movement and singing of the cast was mostly impressive, although Frederic’s performance was a little disappointing. Mike Pavitt as the Major-General was superb, his diction and intonation was excellent. Alison Vincent (Mabel) gave a confident and stylish performance, as did Colin Sly (The Pirate King). It was great to see the creative use of lighting enhancing the mood of the scenes being played. This is a great show – grab the tickets while you can!’

The Pirates of Penzance was well received, both in Southampton and Buxton (though it did not quite reach the heights hoped for in the Festival). It did fare very well at the box office though and gained a very healthy profit of £8531 for the Society.

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Frederic

Front: Elizabeth Spencer (Edith), Ralph Bateman (Frederic), Helen Cameron (Kate)

Photo of Fred and Mabel

Ralph Bateman (Frederic) with Alison Vincent (Mabel) - behind them Jo Short (Isabel)

Photo of Major General

Mike Pavitt (Major-General Stanley)

Photo of Pirate King

Paul Webb (Samuel), Mike Pavitt (Major-General Stanley), Colin Sly (The Pirate King)

Photo of Police

David Jupp (Sergeant of Police - right) with his men

Photo of Graveyard

Paul Webb (Samuel), Colin Sly (Pirate King), Mike Pavitt (Major-General), Adam Case, David Jupp (Sergeant of Police)