HMS Pinafore

Date 19th July 2023
Society Winchester Musicals & Opera Society
Venue The Grounds of Winchester College
Type of Production G&S
Director Suzanne Hall
Musical Director Katie Hickson
Band Leader Martin Paterson
Producer Katie Hickson
Written By WS Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan


Author: Mark Allen

For the second time in a week I found myself in the grounds of Winchester College, this time to see Winchester Musicals and Opera Society perform Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore. As always with any summer show that is directed by Suzanne Hall it will be colourful, fun and inventive. This production, set in a train station, was no exception.

Set during World War Two, the band of travelling players are stuck on a platform waiting for their lead (Ralph Rackstraw) to arrive, however he has been called up and so the cast encourage a Mr Elsmere, the Society's Chairman to grant Gracie the lead, and they decide to perform the piece on the station platform, cue costume/character change!

The six-piece band, dressed in GI costumes, led by Martin Paterson and squirreled in a mess tent to stage right started up at a real lick and the enthusiasm that immediately came across was a joy to witness from both principles and chorus alike. Slick, simple, and effective choreography was delivered with no hint of any mistake, each cast member knew where to be and when (and most importantly why!). They had all been well rehearsed, this much was evident, and were here to enjoy themselves. The diction was clear and precise, both spoken and sung. As alluded to earlier, the inventiveness came by intertwining any number of 1940’s songs seamlessly into Sullivans music and Gilberts libretto. Everything from Tea for Two and Sunny Side of the Street to When I'm Cleaning Windows and Teddy Bears' Picnic (yes!) I also liked the arrival of the sisters, cousins and aunts, in bright red swimming costumes and hats in a synchronised, Esther Williams style. Very funny, highly effective  

There were great performances from the principal line up with Kate Higson as Buttercup, Amarantha Fennell-Wells as Ralph Rackstraw, Lisa Atkins as Josephine and Dave Tatnall as Sir Joseph all performed very well with great attention to clarity of diction and comic timing. They were very ably backed up by a very comedic, comedy duo of Alan Morgan as Dick Deadeye and Connor Handstock as Captain Corcoran. However, each and every member of the cast should be commended. They all played their parts, added their own nuances to enhance the overall performance.

The set changes were slick, no black out or silent down time and were mostly undertaken by the cast and crew and any “major” set changes led well by Stage Manager Angie Barkes.

Fantastic colourful costumes throughout, matching the brilliant sound from the band and efficient lighting all added to a wonderful evening’s entertainment.

Huge congratulations Winchester, once again you have delivered a first class, first rate show. Thank you.