Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe - Rugby Under 14 XV, 1964/65

My thanks to Adrian Broadway for sending me the photo.

The Pirates of Penzance was performed at the school in December 1964, directed by Mr J S Dawes and produced by Mr T J Newling.

Scans of the programme, together with cast list, can be found here.

A hi-res version of this photo can be viewed and downloaded here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnchess2/10328192963/in/photostream/

If you think you can identify any more of the cast, please email me at the link below.

Wycombiensian, May 1965, p679

To exchange the make-up sticks of “five” and “nine” for the critic’s acid-laden quill might well appear the height of treachery; to unmask those oneself has masked, a cruel betrayal. My task had, however, its own fascination. How curious it was, for example, to observe the chorus of Major Stanley’s daughters (wards of court, incidentally, in case you were marvelling at the abundance of his progeny) substitute for the tarty vulgarity which I had gratefully abandoned in the make-up room a demure prettiness and lightness of foot on stage which would have done credit to many a corps de ballet. The sweetness of the choral singing of the daughters was well matched by the robust harmonies of the pirates and police who, from the rousing opening number of “Pour, oh pour the pirates’ sherry” to the rhythmic “Ra-ra-ra-ra-” of the final chorus, provided a solid foundation for the individual efforts of the leading players.
 
Mr. Burnell was in deed as in word “the very model of a modern major general.” He managed with equal dexterity the verbal gymnastics of the patter song and the musical hurdles of the frequently strained-after “Sighing softly...” and even made the ghastly punning around “often” and “orphan” sound mildly amusing.

With his Cambridge choral scholarship tucked in his belt, it is hardly surprising that R. C. [Richard] Jones as the Pirate King treated us to some of the finest singing of the evening. This, with his confidence and panache on the stage, added up to one of the most polished performances. Among the pirates he was admirably seconded by G. T. Huggins’ Samuel.

In spite of his inexperience in school productions, K. N. [Nick] Simons made a very promising appearance as Frederick – an unenviable role, at once musically strenuous but dramatically uninspiring.
 
M. J. Holgate was a fine figure of a police sergeant. One regretted only that he did not radiate on stage just a little more of the beery ebullience he displayed behind the scenes – but that too will come with more experience. He commanded the kind of force that Inspector Barlow* probably has nightmares about and which made the most of its opportunities for comedy and indeed downright farce!

The girl leads grappled manfully (if that is the right word) with parts which, especially in the case of Mabel, would have presented a challenge to more mature voices and actors. The audience appreciated their efforts and was moved, on not a few occasions, by the earnest sincerity of, in particular, Mabel’s duet with Frederick.

This was a school production – and from this point of view it was as satisfying to observe the stage packed to capacity at the final curtain as it was to see the auditorium filled in the same proportion. That the triumphant grins of the performers were reflected in the smiling approval of the audience must count as an additional tribute to the work of the musical directors, Mr. J. S. Dawes and Mr. D. Watmough, the producer, Mr. T. J. Newling, and all those who assisted in this highly enjoyable presentation.

D.B. (probably David Bridges, history master)
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(* Inspector Barlow - for those born after about 1970, this is a reference to a character played by the actor Stratford Johns in a popular TV cop show of the 1960s called Z-Cars and a spin-off show called Softly Softly.)

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