HMS Pinafore

Date 4th May 2016
Society Eastbourne G & S Society
Venue Devonshire Park Eastbourne
Type of Production Comic Opera
Director Michael Bale
Musical Director Pat White
Choreographer Lucy Sarsfield


Author: Anne Lawson

The happy crew are aboard the HMS Pinafore for another true G & S tongue in cheek, with love levelling all ranks of the British Navy opera. The plot tells of Captain Corcoran hoping his daughter Josephine will marry the Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter, KCB.  Sadly for him, she is secretly in love with lowly, socially unsuitable sailor Ralph Rackstraw and he with her.  Eloping is surely the answer, but this plan is thwarted by Dick Deadeye informing the Captain. Language turns blue, arrests are made. Then a dramatic admission - Mrs Cripps, a Portsmouth ‘bumboat’ woman known as Little Buttercup tells that long ago she was a baby farmer and had mixed up two children! The consequence of this being the Captain is actually of lowly birth and Ralph is high.  Sir Joseph demands they exchange uniforms with immediate effect.  Now the once Captain is free to marry Little Buttercup, and the now Captain Ralph can marry Josephine and Sir Joseph settles for Cousin Hebe.

We were treated to an extract from Pineapple Poll, a delightful ballet created in the 1950’s. This was performed by six members of the Southern Youth Ballet.

A very full A5 programme was prepared, with a colourful naval caricature of Sir Joseph and a very cheeky seagull - who was heard and seen flying! Plenty of interesting reading matter.

The orchestra was under the expert baton of Pat White, with leader Lisa Wigmore, from the pit with Percussion/Timpani player Avril Vegh rather well placed in her box. Some good principal numbers, together with plenty of rousing ensemble work, both serious and comedic, enjoyable. Well rehearsed, and how good to see such a large contingent of co-ordinated sailors supported by Sir Joseph’s sisters, cousins and aunts with Lucy Sarsfield having put them through their paces, particularly the trio of Josephine, Cororan and Sir Joseph in ‘Nevermind the Whys’ ensuring shipshape results.

The Matthew 25 Mission constructed a sturdy deck with steps either side to the wheel with cabins below, doors neatly opened into a cabin. Against them stood mops that were expertly wielded – the deck a credit, with barrels strategically set. Really encouraging to see a good strong, well co-ordinated chorus of deck swabbing sailors, together with Sir Joseph’s sisters, cousins and Aunts. Rousing, harmonious chorus work with movement well mastered. Good sound throughout, together with effective lighting, particularly for the night sky during the Captain’s ‘Fair Moon to Thee I Sing’.

Val Dormady supplied gents' nautical attire and elegant ladies complete with bonnets and parasols – despite one behaving rather badly, it must have been a windy day!

The first directorship for Michael Bale produced a happy, melodious result with a sprinkle of comedy and establishment mickey taking. With real naval experience, Nigel Patching as Dick Deadeye developed a great comedy character, in stance, accent and agility. Stage entrances and exits were neat and I liked the use of the auditorium for the ladies to greet the arrival of the ship. Marian Pierce created a cheeky bespectacled Cousin Hebe, partnering wide eyed Paul Eccles portraying, lover of the hornpipe, rather pompous, he with a bounty of useless etiquette, dislike of the high sea and loathing of bad language, Sir Joseph. Victoria Langley played an attractive Josephine opposite tall Christopher Peck as the love struck shy Ralph, who transformed into an eloquent gentleman. Nigel Lawton as Captain C. both looked and sounded the part only to be reduced to the lower ranks but gaining Little Buttercup, Victoria Brown, as his own.  Cameo parts were well sung.