HMS Pinafore (including Trial by Jury)

Date 7th May 2014
Society East Norfolk Operatic Society
Venue Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich
Type of Production musical
Director Sheila Tuffield
Musical Director Ros Swetman


Author: Terry Rymer

This double bill was presented in the Maddermarket, which is an iconic venue and a perfect place to enjoy the intimacy that makes the G and S experience so valued by its stalwart followers, and ENOS has its fair share of those!    They were not to be disappointed.   We entered to the excellent colourful set of  ‘on board ship’ moored against a typical nineteenth century Naval wharf  complete with sail and lifeboat; and creating differing levels for the action.   All ‘home constructed’.   The eight piece orchestra were nicely balanced and ably led by long serving member Ros Swetman as MD for the first time (What took you so long Ros?) she had clearly brought out the best in this all ‘in house’ cast, which considering it was actually two shows, was no mean feat!

The overture held our interest as sailors went about their daily tasks, and some less sociable activities, which moved smoothly into the Chorus of  Sailors who set the tone with ‘We Sail The Ocean Blue’, this mostly ‘Senior’ crew were in fine voice throughout with some nice mannerisms to compliment their renditions, as were those of the attentive ladies chorus who each added their own little something!

It would be hard to single out principal players as each and every one had excellent singing voices with clear enunciation of the often complex and cleverly inspired  G and S rhyming dialogue.   Special mention for Captain Corcoran (Robin Richardson) who added that extra touch of subtle humour as he perhaps unintentionally rebuffed and then capitulated to the excellent Little Buttercup ( Margaret Collingwood).   Dick Deadeye (Martin Dyer) clearly relished his role as ‘the Judas’ of the piece and made the most of his almost panto like villainous interventions and well delivered duet ‘Kind Captain, I’ve Important information’ with Capt Corcoran.   The Rt Hon. Sir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admiralty (Keith Swetman) was suitably pompous and showed his true colours when ‘tricked’ into his equal opportunities speech ‘If you please!’…dealing nicely with his tongue twisting songs and dialogue.   His First Cousin, Hebe (Teresa Clayton) was always good to watch, portraying the ‘obedient’ and clearly put upon role with nice touches of humour and body language to match. As for Able Seaman Rackstraw (Caspar James) his was a stylish and sensitive performance with singing to match but it was obvious that he was much more suited to his true birthright as he transformed seamlessly into the role of Captain, and the demoted Corcoran adopted a well received transformation to ‘good old Norfolk boy!’… Tha’s a pretty good job boi…! We loved it! (er… do Pirates and Pilots themes resonate here?)

Have no fear the best is saved till last…with Josephine, the Captains Daughter (Rachel Goodchild) she of the totally captivating, enchanting and beguiling demeanour coupled with fine voice and appearance.   Her every entrance and song a joy to behold. Her facial  expressions and movement moved this piece to another level. To quote a much favoured G and S phrase …’Oh rapture !’.. She was outstanding!

 Now here we had a novel way of  introducing the short but popular piece, Trial By Jury. It was presented as shipboard entertainment for the First Lord of the Admiralty during his visit to HMS Pinafore…and as such the juxtaposition worked well. The comedy of the piece resonating with the scenario acted out in the main storyline.

The parts were again well cast with, a new to Norfolk, principal Nick Best as the Defendant, showing some sparkle with his fine tenor voice and some nice moments of ironic humour well portrayed.   Another ‘new’ principal  Edmund Ramsdale  showed great promise as the Usher with excellent comedy timing and vocal range to match, his promotion from chorus in last years ‘Pirates’ being his first since a school production of that show in !998 when he played a policeman.   (Stick with it Edmund, G and S is as good as panto in its own way and neither is mutually exclusive!).  Another newcomer Foreman of the Jury (Andrew Goodchild) gave an excellent debut performance. Counsel for the Plaintiff (John Bill) showed  style and experience  and clearly has G and S in his veins. The Plaintiff herself (Sue Coleman) showed admirable stoicism and featured with strong vocal lead in at least six of the songs, and just a tad of  OTT acting, as she shared her attentions between the Jury and The Learned Judge, as did most of the female chorus who clearly enjoyed their moments of feminine supremacy…or was it? Well times have changed and the nicely polished outlandish behaviour of the  lecherous old Learned Judge(Alan Weyman) and his learned pronunciations immaculately presented in word and song giving rise to great mirth, would certainly fall foul of today’s tabloids, but who cares?  

This is a rollicking almost farcical satire on human frailty and duplicitous behaviour at all levels and allows a certain ‘license’ to be taken by those fortunate enough to portray the opposing roles.  It is a piece much enjoyed by cast and audience alike. Long may it continue to enhance the enjoyment of some of the shorter pieces from the G and S repertoire.

 This was a fine evening of Typically English (yes we can still say that!) musical entertainment. Just the occasional line lost only noticed by true officionardos and this was after all the opening night!  Clearly the followers of G and S  know a good thing when they see one and will continue to support this, quintessentially English, whimsical genre of nostalgia, fine singing, clever humorous, sometime rhyming, lyrics and of course the happy endings that we crave in this mad modern world. Long may it continue. (Watch out for ‘The Sorcerer’ next year.)       

Note from Sue:

ENOS kindly invited me to the final rehearsal pre-theatre and what a delight this show was, casting exemplary and singing great. And to find two new young tenors for G&S! Certainly endorse all Terry's comments and so sorry to miss the performance.