Roll up Roll up, Ladies and Gentlemen, Attention Please Attention if you please! I present you with my G&S history, in pictures!
The Yeoman Of The Guard – 2002
In 2001 I helped out with Pirates, but that was before the invention of cameras. 2002 saw me take to The Boards for the first time ever, as a Yeoman – Not only was I considered too tall to be a girl, but the tall girls were split, with the taller half being Yeoman and the middle half being men. Shy and quiet and largely unable to sing, Yeoman was certainly a new experience, but remains one of my favourites. For anyone interested, the school reinstated ‘Laughing Boy’ and ‘Jealous Torments’ but retained the cut of ‘Rapture Rapture’ – which I for one am only too grateful for. See how many other familiar faces you can find on this cast photo:
The Mikado – 2003
Slightly older and slightly less shy, in The Mikado I was male chorus, had two wives, and carried a banner as part of the Mikado’s train. Start small, as they say. Digital cameras had been invented by then, so here is me sporting full Japanese attire, and yes, those are tights on my head.
Iolanthe – 2004
In Iolanthe I was the tallest person in the cast, and as some sort of bizarre reward for this achievement, was the only member of the Peer’s chorus in blue, thus identified easily from miles away. Intriguing costuming decisions saw us wearing white bloomers with shirts tucked in, and personal pride rendered my mustachios the largest and most impressive around. I even took public transport home while wearing it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is style.
Ruddigore – 2005
My first principal part. For those of you familiar with the story, Old Adam is a great little part for a character actor and was a good part for me to get started on. Racked with nerves, I made mistakes with the singing every night, but thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Especially getting my costume ripped on stage, and terrorising the female chorus with a stuffed rat, and fake-crying really loud during the leading lady’s solemn second act solo. I also got measured for my costume standing on a chair in the headmistress’ office in the middle of one of her important meetings, having spent all afternoon in the pub. Ruddigore also saw the start of that infamous school nick name – ‘ugly old moron’ – those were the days.
The Gondoliers - 2006
My last year in school was emotional for many reasons, but none more so than that I was forced to leave the comforting grasp of the Opera. Playing Don Alhambra was fantastic, Gilbert did, after all, write his finest roles for men, and not many women can boast of having played them. Several large solos and countless libretto lines later, on the last night I was so distraught at the prospect of leaving that I cried all the way through the final scene, and positively collapsed after the customary last night speech. Which was a shame really, as I had been partly responsible for re-writing the end-of-show song that year and didn’t get to enjoy any of it! (I will endeavour to find and replicate said song one day). Here I am, gloriously grey:
HMS Pinafore – 2007
The established G&S society was one of the reasons I decided to go to Hull University, and I was lucky enough in my first year to secure a good part with a promising young cast around me – the HUGSS society enjoyed a large influx of members in 06/07, among them a full suite of G&S principal performers – soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, comic lead, bass - meaning that Pinafore, although raw in presentation, allowed performers good creative flow, and set the foundations for lasting friendships. Here is me, resplendent in my first ever female role:
Iolanthe - 2008
My second Iolanthe, this time as a principal. Fairy Queen Kayleigh was also President Kayleigh, aptly termed by the director in his ‘Thank You’ card after the show ‘Lord High Everything Else’. I got involved with everything possible and probably largely compromised my final degree grades by throwing myself into the part with such ardour. Nice costume this year, a little bit sexy is a good look for the Queen I think. My favourite bit of the show was almost definitely being given japanese ‘kabuki’ streamers to play with at the end of Finale Act 1 – amazing!
The Pirates of Penzance – 2009
My first role in Pirates, and not an attractive one – directorial vision saw Ruth in men’s clothing, having obviously worn out her female attire while living with the pirates. The overall effect was brilliant, with all the pirates in tweed - but I doubt I will ever have a less attractive costume! The show was largely set in the 50’s with swing skirts, beach huts, bright colours and my little brother playing the (Geordie) Sergeant of Police. We also won the ‘Best Society Event’ award from the University for our efforts! Two pictures here, to show you my rather hideous main costume, and also my make-over costume for the end of the finale:
The Mikado – 2010
After being forced to leave University (bad times indeed) I reluctantly sought G&S action elsewhere – and became a member of St Andrew’s in Roker. The Mikado was the first time I had ever played a ‘young’ girl, which I found ridiculously hard to adjust to – and the show run was the longest I had done to date (6 nights including Dress). Playing Pitti-Sing was also the first time I had acted with appropriate aged principals; the three maids and Nanki-Poo were passing young enough, and the other characters were passing old enough to be real adults. Overall a brilliant experience, which also set my directorial ambitions in motion.
The Gondoliers – 2010
Words cannot describe how simply amazing my experience at Buxton was. Invited to Buxton with SavoyNet Performing Group to sing in the Opera House, ‘Tessa’ was my biggest and most difficult role to date, having to take on the ‘romantic’ leading lady for the first time ever. I couldn’t have asked for a better Guiseppe, more enjoyable rehearsals or a fuller Opera House (sold out!). Audience members actually cried in the emotional exit of Marco and Guiseppe at the End of Act One, and I discovered that actually I can dance quite well!
Ruddigore – 2010
The oldest role I have played to date, Dame Hannah is clarified from the off as an ‘old’ character, so I found it quite difficult to effect this, being barely twenty two. Still, I gave it a good go, donning prematurely greying (but visibly still red underneath) matron hair, wrinkles and a stern Scottish accent. High point of this one – being dragged through the audience with a sack over my head, screaming!
Iolanthe – 2011
My second role with Roker, my second Fairy Queen and my third Iolanthe – I definitely knew all the words this time. My Fairy Queen this time took a much more childish direction, channelling ‘Queenie’ from Blackadder, as she led the Suffragettes to victory (enjoyable insertion: The Soldiers Of Our Queen from Patience, but to the words ‘We are the Suffragettes/We fight for equal status’). I had the most amazing costume I have ever encountered and was absolutely devastated to have to give back, and enjoyed building on friendships formed during Ruddigore. Here is me, commanding the stage, as it were!
The Grand Duke – 2011
Every G&S collector needs a ‘Grand Duke’ under their belt and I was lucky enough to be invited to become a member of Newcastle University G&S for the privilege. Working with students again was absolutely brilliant, and The Grand Duke presented opportunity to get involved with makeup and costumes again, as well as making lots of lovely new friends. Baroness von Krackenfeldt is amazing fun to play (especially in this interpretation) – highly strung and thrifty in Act One with Rudolph, angry and haughty in the fantastic Act 2 entrance with Ludwig and Julia, and in this, the opportunity to be a delightful drunk, throwing glasses of champagne over an unlucky chorus before marrying the strapping Prince of Monte Carlo. Theatrical Bliss!
HMS Pinafore – 2011
Yet to reveal the finished spectacle, I wont go into too much detail about Pinafore – but a full account of my first directorial project will no doubt follow. Directing is fun despite the stress, and playing my own Buttercup gives a sense of freedom which I haven’t encountered in anyone else’s theatrical vision. That, and I get to stand in for anyone who is currently missing, so a myriad of characters is always eager to get out! Here is me being Sir Joseph Porter in rehearsal:
And that, devoted readers, is that! More information on any of the above is available on request should you ever want it (unlikely) but I leave you now to attend to Pinafore business. One day I might even branch out to performances which aren’t G&S, though still high on the ‘To Do’ list are Phoebe in Yeoman, Lady Psyche in Ida, Lady Jane in Patience and one of the twins in Utopia. But anyway, to business - I go, I go – look how I go! Swifter than an arrow….