The satirical side of comic opera is still present

Opera song

ONE of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most enduring comedy operas will be staged at Henley Rugby Club later this month.

HMS Pinafore arrives at Dry Leas at 6:00 PM on Saturday August 28 as part of the Kenton Theater ‘Summer Roadshow series of outdoor shows at locations across the city.

Subtitled “The Lass that Loved a Sailor”, the show dates from 1878 and takes place aboard the Royal Navy ship. HMS chasuble.

Josephine Corcoran, the captain’s daughter, is in love with a worker sailor, Ralph Rackstraw, but her father wants her to marry Sir Joseph Porter, the First Lord of the Admiralty.

At first, she intends to bow to her father’s wishes, but Sir Joseph’s plea for the equality of humanity ends up inspiring the young lovebirds to think again.

Show producer Stephen Badham says the satire woven into the lyrics has more than stood the test of time and continues to resonate in politics today.

He says: “HMS chasuble was written in the 1870s and Gilbert and Sullivan are as current as they were then.

“It’s kind of like Shakespeare, really – the themes they chose to sing are as relevant as they were when they wrote them. HMS chasuble is a matter of class and it’s especially interesting right now to see one of the main characters being given a position above their position.

“It was a travesty of the days when William Henry Smith, of the newsagent family, had been given the post of chief of the navy and had absolutely no experience of it.

“Gilbert and Sullivan took full advantage of this situation and the character of Sir Joseph Porter in the play is based on Smith.

“In one of the songs he talks about how he reached the peak of his career sitting behind a desk and if you extrapolate that to 2021 there are a lot of people in our political class who are in roles that don’t. may not be the most experienced for – one of whom had to quit recently, so it’s as relevant today as it ever was.

It was precisely for this reason that Stephen and his colleagues at the Illyria Outdoor Theater Company saw no need to tweak the show to make it more current.

“To my knowledge, we haven’t changed any of the words,” he says. “Maybe there were a few changes just to update them. But, for example, in Gilbert and Sullivan The Mikado there is a whole song where it is the tradition for the person who sings it to write new lyrics that bring them into the modern world.

“But that’s not so much the case with HMS chasuble and, to be quite frank, it doesn’t really need to.

“The themes and words they wrote are so current today, just as they were then, that few of them really need updating.”

As Stephen puts it, it’s the show’s power of satire that has continued to make it such a hit with audiences over the years.

He says: “A lot of things that were written with this satirical angle, going back even to Shakespeare 400 years ago, are still relevant today because satire sort of goes with the times – and the pursuit of the power and greed don’t really. change. “

With a cast of six, the show is touring the country until the end of August.

Founded in 1991 by artistic director Oliver Gray, Illyria is one of the UK’s oldest and most respected open-air theater companies, having been hailed as ‘top notch’ by the UK. The telegraph of the day.

Stephen says, “We don’t really do a lot of indoor theater – we only do theaters where a venue has a back-up if the weather is too bad for an outdoor production. Having said that, we play in all weather. We only have to stop the show if it is dangerous – high winds or lightning.

“So even though it’s raining heavily, as it was with our first performance of HMS chasuble at Penlee Park in Penzance, we will continue to play.

“In Penzance it rained from the moment we got there until the moment we left, but they sold out and 80% of the audience came.

“The point is, Brits are used to sitting on the beach in their sweaters, so going out and looking at a room in a raincoat is nothing, really.

“It’s a pretty British thing to do, to sit outside very doggedly and enjoy the theater while it’s raining heavily.”

As Stephen knows from experience, UK weather can go either way.

He says, “The thing we always tell people is to make sure you bring sunscreen and a raincoat, because you could probably use them both on any given day.

“But the weather is looking good for the next few weeks, so let’s keep our fingers crossed, it’s going to be a decent summer.”

• Tickets for HMS chasuble costs £ 18 for adults with discounts of £ 10. For more information and to book visit