HMS Pinafore in full sail

TRIAL BY JURY and HMS PINAFOREby Gilbert and Sullivan presented by the Ipswich Gilbert and Sullivan Amateur Operatic Society, at the Corn Exchange, Ipswich, last week

TRIAL BY JURY and HMS PINAFORE

by Gilbert and Sullivan presented by the Ipswich Gilbert and Sullivan Amateur Operatic Society, at the Corn Exchange, Ipswich, last week

THE good ship HMS Pinafore sailed into Ipswich (or rather, judging by the scenery, Southwold), manned by a motley crew of sopranos, contraltos, tenors and basses. Ipswich G & S were ack with a delightful production of the classic comic opera.

The ship itself, majestically spanning the Corn Exchange stage, looked like a cross between the RMS Titanic (with solitary lifeboat) and a Mississippi steamboat, and this deliberate clash of styles and eras was a hallmark of this clever production.


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The orchestra, under the direction of Andrew Burke, was in tip top form, and the sure hand of producer Mavis Holmes kept the whole show shipshape and Bristol fashion.

The nautical plot, as with all Gilbert and Sullivan shows, is immensely silly, but the cast carried it off with great panache, and the mixture of period styles meant that the First Lord of the Admiralty's "sisters, cousins and aunts" got to dress up as the ladies attending the Ascot opening day in My Fair Lady. Thus, the heroine, Josephine, made her first entrance as an Edwardian vision in black and white. Natasha Shipp was Audrey Hepburn re-born. And, as one of those rare operatic performers who can combine glamour with a beautiful voice, she lived up to the expectations raised by that stunning first appearance. It's was a lovely performance that lent a touch of class to a fun-packed rendition of this popular classic.

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Gerry Bremner was in good voice as the dashing sea-faring hero Ralph, the humble sailor, and was matched in the vocal stakes by the silver-voiced tenor of Howard Brooks as the kindly Captain Corcoran. Doug Birchall was a treat as the villainous Dick Deadeye, and Roy Preston made an urbane, if slightly low key, Sir Joseph - I could have done with a little more of the oily political placeman. Louise Bentley was the sweetest of Buttercups.

The show hardly needed a curtain raiser, but Trial by Jury, featuring Phil Holmes as the lecherous judge, was given a pleasantly zany slant by setting it as a reality TV trial some time in the 1970s. The costumes were a riot.

James Hayward

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