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News > Christ College Archive > HMS Pinafore (1958)

HMS Pinafore (1958)

You asked and we posted!
HMS Pinafore (1958)
HMS Pinafore (1958)

We've received several requests for a gallery of HMS Pinafore (1958) photographs, and it's an important reminder of how significant the Gilbert and Sullivan productions were in their time. 

'HMS Pinafore' had previously been performed on the Big School stage in 1905. We've added a photograph of the 1905 cast to the gallery for your enjoyment.

The 1958 production, however, heralded a sequence of Gilbert and Sullivan productions that lasted from 1958 to 1972: 'HMS Pinafore' (1958); 'Ruddigore' (1960); 'Pirates of Penzance' (1962); 'Patience' (1964); 'The Mikado' (1966); 'Iolanthe' (1968); 'Yeomen of the Guard' (1970); 'The Gondoliers' (1972). 

Under the musical direction of DJ De Vile (Staff 1955-67) and later J Aveyard (Staff 1967-1973), they were performed every other year between classic plays, from 'Twelfth Night' (1959) to 'The Flies' (1971). Characterised by live music, sophisticated sets, elaborate costumes, impressive leads and large casts, the productions made full use of the facilities of the new Mem. Hall.

'HMS Pinafore' is certainly a memorable production for those who recall taking part, and for those in the audience who enjoyed the spectacle. The Breconian reveals that it was equally memorable at the time, to the extent that two "appreciations" were published - both of which are reproduced below for your enjoyment.

If the appreciations prompt your own recollections please share them in the Comments. If you'd like to share a longer recollection, Felicity would be delighted to hear from you. 

HMS Pinafore - appreciation No. 1

On the last two nights of the Easter Term, the Musical Society and Dramatic Society combined to stage Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore.” The last production of Gilbert and Sullivan took place nearly fifty years ago, and was in fact the same work.

The production was the result of two term’s hard work. The school was fortunate in that it had the right number of the right kind of soloists to take the principal parts. The heroine is always a problem in a boys’ school production. One cannot expect the boy to produce a full-blooded operatic soprano—indeed, perhaps one does not want him to. Josephine succeeded in producing some beautiful singing with very clear tone, and remained undaunted by her top C’s.—in fact, they were in danger of becoming D flats! Where her tone was quiet, the orchestra played down so as not to swamp her. Her words were not always audible but she showed feeling for her part and remained convincing throughout.

There was no need to play down to Captain Corcoran, who acted and sang in a manner which suggested that he was quite at home in the part. Ralph Rackstraw’s part, difficult for a schoolboy tenor was sung musically by P. J. Owen, who had the good sense to subordinate his own stronger voice to that of Josephine in duets. Buttercup gave a good account of herself and was probably the most audible singer of the evening. She found it difficult to get inside her part, though, and would have been better if she could have lost some of her inhibitions. Sir Joseph Porter, whose appearance was indistinguishable on stage from that of his professional counterpart, showed incredible agility physically and mentally if not vocally. He obviously enjoyed it as much as the audience did. His “bell song” was one of the highlights of the evening.

Of the Sailors, the Carpenter, the Bo’sun, and Dick Deadeye all gave good performances, singing with musical love and feeling where needed, and with the right amount of villainy, where the part indicated it. Dick is especially to be congratulated on maintaining his stoop throughout the evening. R. J. W. Davies, as the Bo’sun, made the most of a comparatively small part and made his character into much more of a personality than the script suggests is possible. D. G. Owen, as the Carpenter, was particularly effective in the Trio, combining real musical talent with an appearance of complete bewilderment. The smallest member of the school made a most commanding midshipmite, while Hebe sang and acted her part in a most decorative manner.

The Chorus scenes were well drilled and sung and danced beautifully together. The dances and the two Finales made a magnificent spectacle. The whole appearance was given final and expert polish by the set, built under Mr. Shuttleworth’s guidance, and the backcloth painted by Mrs. Chamberlain.

The school were fortunate to have playing for them an orchestra, many members of which gave up time at great inconvenience to themselves.

School Producers and Directors of Music usually set out to achieve professional standards against considerable odds - small choice of actors and unformed and unsuitable voices being just two of their many worries.

Christ College production 1958 went a long way towards achieving a really high standard in a medium which, though popular with amateurs, is as easy to do badly as it is difficult to do well.


HMS Pinafore - appreciation No. 2 

GILBERTS NIGHT by "E. Ogwen Thomas"

The recent news that the United States Supreme Court has decided that Mr. Jack Benny’s television playlet, “Autolight,” was a reprehensible parody of Mr. Patrick Hamilton’s play, “Gaslight,” shows an alarming and erratic move towards progress in the matter of copyright conscience. ‘H.M.S. Pinafore,’ in its early days, suffered many piratic launchings in that country before the English company sailed in. The plot of ‘Pinafore’ is thin enough to justify a full turn of the wheel and its emergence now as a wide screen American-type musical.

However, to home waters. The performance of ‘H.M.S. Pinafore’ by Christ College is responsible for a further digression plus the title of this piece. It was, of course, Gilbert’s night, but what did a Public School make of his tilt at the twin brands of snobbery that still decorate our social structure? Did the players sense the essence (contagion!) of Gilbert? Or is there a need for a Gilbert Appreciation Class in these washboard days?

The School, I think, did enough justice to the dialogue to allay most fears. There was, however, some trouble with diction, this understandingly so with the attempt to marry Vittoria voices to the music of Sullivan. To underline this there was one delightfully alarming example of stage schizophrenia: Josephine, when she spoke was all the English stage could hope for in a leading lady, a cooing Leighton in miniature. Josephine’s singing was quite another thing.

The Chorus of Sailors was manly and in good voice. Here was the main strength of this excellent production. The principals,, singing over the luxury of an orchestra, did a remarkably fine job. Buttercup, Becket and Bobstay were as accurate as Porter, Corcoran and Rackstraw were talented. The female chorus was ‘relatively’ beautiful and, perhaps, would appreciate the unmaidenly expression that they were well turned out.

The set would have done credit to the Savoy and the backcloth was almost disconcertingly brilliant.



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