Acclaimed Norfolk touring company Livewire Opera presents The Pirates of Penzance at The Garage at 7.30pm, Friday 28-Saturday 29 June.
Written by Gilbert and Sullivan, the comic tale follows young Frederic who is about to leave his indentures, through his encounters with the tender-hearted orphaned pirates. Ruth, the middle-aged pirate maid, is the only female he’s ever seen – until The Major General’s beautiful daughters decide to picnic on the same beach the pirates are rollicking on.
The score includes songs like With Cat-like Tread, When The Foeman Bares His Steel and I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major-General.
We spoke to musical and artistic director Susan Gothard, Sergeant of Police Robin Nash and Pirate King Robert Ayers.
How many times has Livewire performed The Pirates of Penzance since forming?
Susan Gothard: This is the second time, the first was in 2009. Several of us have performed as pirates several times, Gerry Dixon has played Frederic, The Pirate King and this year the Major General. Rosie Dixon has played Edith, Kate and this year Ruth. Robin Nash is the Sergeant of Police again and Debbie Gothard is Mabel for the third time. We have a family of five involved in the company – Robert, Daniel and Rebecca Ayers are in the cast, Hayley Ayers is stage manager and Lynn Chapman is in the cast and is Hayley’s sister.
Are the songs as tricky to perform as they seem to be from an audience’s point of view?
SG: Yes, so the singers tell me (smiles).
How important were Gilbert and Sullivan in the development of musical theatre in the 20th Century?
SG: Gilbert and Sullivan changed both the content and form of musical theatre. They showed that subjects like politics and social issues could be addressed in a witty way without sacrificing entertainment. They were perhaps a precursor for modern comedy greats from the stage, media and TV – including Monty Python, Private Eye and Yes, Minister… all poking fun at the establishment and social rankings.
They seem to be a dream pairing; many believe one couldn’t have been as successful without the other?
SG: Well history certainly suggests that as neither had as much success separately as they did together.
How do you decide which musical Livewire will do each year?
SG: I think about the demands of the shows and whether we have the necessary casting to perform it, as well as the enjoyment factor of the show for the company. Of course I have to like the show too.
Do you have a favourite show that Livewire has done?
SG: This will come as a shock to all as I actually didn’t want to do it – The Sound of Music. Everyone seemed to have such fun with it and with all the children as well. The crew worked manically as there were so many set changes, the wardrobe department nearly resigned as there were so many costumes, but everyone had an absolute ball.
Robin Nash: I have enjoyed all the Livewire shows. Mikado is my favourite, particularly the first one – the one at Park Lane Norwich where I stood on the back of my costume and tumbled down the stairs. I played the Mikado in the show.
Do you find it easy to remember your song words and spoken lines? Do you have any tricks that help you?
Robert Ayers: I didn’t have many last year, this year quite a few more. Repetition is the key for me – learn one line then add another and repeat them, then keep building it up by adding another line once the previous ones have sunk in. I then run the conversations over in my head.
RN: I use recordings for the music. I record my lines and those of others onto a mobile recording device. I often listen in the car.
Do you enjoy the costume and make-up part of a show?
RA: I’m looking forward to the costume as I think it will help me become the character. Before last year I’d never worn make-up except for a few dodgy nights out.
RN: Private Willis’ uniform is my favourite costume, from Iolanthe.
Is there a show that you have always wanted to do and haven’t yet?
RA: Jesus Christ Superstar – I would love to play Jesus so I could sing Gethsemane.
RN: Maybe Curly or Will Parker in Oklahoma.