Soham Grammarians : Pirates of Penzance, Easter 1965

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Press reviews

Cast source: Martin Duffield

Constabulary Duty's Never Done (Tar-an-ta-ra, knees bend) source: Martin Duffield

Maids & the Major-General source: Martin Duffield

Pirates subdue the Constabulary, Maids looking on source: Martin Duffield

Mabel (Partridge) & Frederick (Cedric Fisher) source: Tony Pennick


from the Soham Grammarian of Summer 1965, courtesy of Stephen Martin

For the major stage production of the year, it was decided to revert to a well-established Soham Grammar School tradition by producing a Gilbert and Sullivan opera. The work chosen was The Pirates of Penzance, last produced in 1957, in the heyday of the Waller-Stalker regime. It is not easy to produce a large-scale musical work when there is no direct tradition to draw on, and the School was fortunate in being able to call upon the services of Mr. and Mrs. Makin, ardent G&S fans both, to direct this production. Largely due to their hard work, and to the patience and enthusiasm of a large cast, the production gave great pleasure to the many people who attended the three performances on March 26th, 27th and 29th.

Many people believe that Sullivan's music has worn better than Gilbert's words, and the Soham production was strong musically. Helpfully accompanied on two pianos by Mr. Ades and Mrs. Yeornans, a largely inexperienced cast managed to put across the familiar tunes with good attack and infectious enthusiasm. Partridge sang the difficult role of Mabel with great confidence: his dazzling display in Poor Wandering One was deservedly encored. He also managed to look sufficiently attractive to bring a welcome warmth into C. Fisher's performance of the rather dull role of Frederick, the conventional tenor lover.

In the opera's two most rewarding parts, S. Parkinson (as the Major General) and V. A. J. Moll (as the Pirate King) were more successful than many of the cast in the difficult task of acting while singing: Parkinson's rubicund military man was entirely convincing, and Moll swash-buckled confidently. Tyler tackled the difficult role of Ruth bravely, and Pearson, Durrant and Matthews showed talent in minor parts. The work of the chorus in Gilbert and Sullivan is very important, and the Soham chorus had evidently been well drilled. The chorus of Daughters, though rather static, sang sweetly and simpered becomingly; the Pirates and the Policemen were nicely contrasted, and the combined voices in the "Tarantara" Chorus came over rousingly. The rather dull patches of spoken dialogue needed more punch to compensate for their faded charm.

The sets were attractive and well-lit, and the colourful costumes (by Mr Askem and Nellie Smith of Nottingham) brought a welcome professional touch to a very entertaining production.