Mayfair Theatre, 100 King Edward Street, Kensington, Dunedin

04/08/2012 - 10/08/2012

Production Details

Presented by the Really Authentic Gilbert and Sullivan Performance Trust

The Final Season of the Complete Gilbert and Sullivan in Dunedin  

The Really Authentic Gilbert and Sullivan Performance Trust (RAGSPT) was founded in 2001 specifically to stage in Dunedin between 2002 and 2012  high-quality annual productions of the complete series of 13 surviving G&S comic operas.

This year’s concluding production season re-stages G&S’s short operatic gem, Trial By Jury, as a reminder of where the project began ten years ago, and then completes the canon with the rarely-performed final opera, The Grand Duke. To the best of our knowledge, this work has only been staged in NZ once before – by the Wellington Amateur Operatic Society in June 1900!

Trial By Jury, just 35 minutes long, is a concise, witty, elegant and near-perfect work of art, which pokes gentle fun at the British legal system in a plot built around a case of breach of promise.

The Grand Duke is a full-scale mad-cap romp set in a fictional German Grand Duchy in which Gilbert returns to a favourite theme – the taking-up of political power by a troupe of actors.

Over the years, the RAGSPT’s unique performing arts project, described by one observer as irresistibly quixotic, has brought together supportive backers, performers, personnel and audiences in a community enterprise which has contributed to Dunedin’s image as a special centre for artistic work and celebrated a Victorian heritage which is part of the city’s identity. Seeing the project through in all its complexity over 11 years has entailed passion and commitment, enabling a new generation to discover through high-quality performances such well-loved operatic masterpieces as The Mikado and The Gondoliers alongside the delights of the lesser-known Patience or The Yeomen of the Guard, as well as rarities like The Sorcerer and Utopia (Limited).

Four of Dunedin’s theatrical personalities – Geoff Smith, Donald Evans, Hilary Norris and John Drummond – have, between them, directed nine of the operas over the years, while English professional music-theatre specialist, Alan Spencer, was invited to direct “the big four” G&S works – H.M.S.Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado and The Gondoliers. Dunedin’s Michael Andrewes has been Musical Director throughout, with the city’s fine Southern Sinfonia in the pit as accompanying orchestra every year, featuring between 24 and 27 players per opera, depending on Sullivan’s original scoring. In an exciting moment of artistic authenticity, a further 12 musicians were on stage in the guise of Grenadier Guards performing Sullivan’s contribution to the pageantry of Iolanthe‘s Peers’ Chorus in 2005.

The Trust has had a policy of inviting annually at least one professional guest artist from outside Dunedin to perform a leading role and to serve as a model of excellence for a cast otherwise made up of southern performers. In this way, it has been possible to invest a solid dose of professional expertise in the productions, more often than not in the otherwise difficult-to-fill-in-Dunedin leading tenor roles, in which fine singers Stephen Brown (England), Stephen Smith (Australia) and Justin Freind (Australia) have each excelled more than once. From within New Zealand, and among others, Joel Allen, back from Wellington for The Grand Duke and his sixth guest appearance with the company, has contributed a unique ability to deliver and inflect Gilbert’s complex rhythmic language to perfection and an otherwise impeccable stage craft.

This year’s concluding season brings together a principal cast, all of whose  actors have been represented, some more than once, in the Trust’s previous twelve productions. Similarly, this year’s large chorus includes only three members new to the company – testimony to the loyalty of the Trust’s core performing membership.

The final curtain on the project will fall at the Mayfair Theatre, Dunedin, on Friday 10 August, with 27 members of the Southern Sinfonia in the pit, after a short season opening on Saturday 4th.

Trial By Jury:
Saturday 4 August at 6.00pm (members only),
Tuesday 7 August at 6.00pm, Friday 10 August at 6.00pm

The Grand Duke:
Saturday 4 August at 7.30pm (members only),
Sunday 5 August at 2.30pm, Tuesday 7 August at 7.30pm, Thursday 9 August at 7.30pm, Friday 10 August at 7.30pm

BOOKINGS are now open at the Regent Theatre, Dunedin (03) 477 8597 or 0800 4 TICKET or 0800 224 224. Website bookings:

At double-opera performances there will be an opportunity to purchase tickets for finger food and refreshments to be served in the Mayfair Theatre Green Room between operas (approx. 45-minute break – numbers limited – pre-booking essential).

A number of celebratory or reunion events are planned around the 2012 season and former members can get in touch through the website below.

See RAGSPT website for further information and booking information:
telephone (03) 477 8463
or email:

THE CASTS  with musicians from the Southern Sinfonia

Trial By Jury

Scene:  A Court of Justice
The Learned Judge – Dave Solomon 
The Plaintiff – Sophie Uriaro 
The Defendant – Matt Wilson 
Counsel for the Plaintiff – John Kiernan-Sear
Usher – Bruce McMillan
Foreman of the Jury – Karl Power

The Grand Duke 

Act I – Public Square of Speisesaal;
Act II – Hall in the Grand Ducal Palace

Rudolph (Grand Duke of Pfennig Halbpfennig) – Barry Dorking
Ernest Dummkopf (a Theatrical Manager) – Justin Friend
Ludwig (his Leading Comedian) – Joel Allen
Dr Tannhäuser (a Notary) – Chris Caradus
The Prince of Monte Carlo – Brian McKay
Viscount Mentone – John Satterthwaite
Ben Hashbaz (a Costumier) – Ray Sheppard
Herald         – Tanara Stedman
The Princess of Monte Carlo (betrothed to Rudolph) – Erin Cameron
The Baroness von Krakenfeldt (betrothed to Rudolph) – Jane Robertson
Julia Jellicoe (an English Comédienne) – Nadya Shaw Bennett
Lisa (a Soubrette) – Sarah Oliver
(Members of Ernest Dummkopf's Company)
Olga        } – Rebecca Moyle
Gretchen } – Lisa Sutherland
Bertha    } – Barbara Bloemsaat
Elsa       } – Sarah Levings
Martha   } – Rebecca Sarkies

Chorus of  Bridesmaids, Public in the Court, Actresses etc. 
Deborah Bell, Barbara Bloemsaat, Phyll Esplin, Hannah Grills, Jocelyn Le Petit, Sarah Levings, Rebecca Moyle, Rebecca Sarkies, Veronica Stevenson, Lisa Sutherland, Heidi Thompson, Alice Watson, Amanda Waugh 

Chorus of Jurymen, Public in the Court, Chamberlains, Nobles, Actors etc.  
Andrew Body, Russell Clark, Reegan Lastovicha, Stephen Murphy, Karl Power, Nick Price-Ellison, John Satterthwaite, Ray Sheppard, Tanara Stedman, Campbell Thomson, Tony Williams, Dan Wilson 

Stage Director (Trial By Jury): – John Drummond
Stage Director (The Grand Duke): – Hilary Norris
Associate Director (The Grand Duke): – Jonathan Cweorth
Musical Director: – Michael Andrewes
Repetiteur and Assistant           to the Musical Director: – Jonathan Drummond
Production Manager (Trial By Jury): – Vickie Cross
Stage Manager (Trial By Jury): – Geoff Patton
Production and Stage Manager (The Grand Duke): – Karen Elliot
Choreography: – Jonathan Cweorth, Nadya Shaw Bennett
Set Design: – John Drummond, Hilary Norris
Set Construction: – Geoff Patton
Set Painting: – Geoff Patton, Ray Sheppard, Jonathan Cweorth, Karen Elliot
Costumes Designer: – Annette Waugh
Wardrobe: – Jodi Barrett, Amanda Waugh
Dressers: – Leah Herbert, Colleen McCrae
Hair, Wigs: – Lorna Mercer 
Props: – Karen Elliot, Vickie Cross 
Make-up Director: – Kimberley Jones 
Make-up Assistant: – Oliva Wardell 
Lighting Designer: – Stephen Kilroy 
Lighting Operator: – Stephen Kilroy 
Promotion: – Michael Andrewes, Dave Solomon 
Programme: – Michael Andrewes, Dave Solomon 
Front of House: – Tricia Scott 

For the Trust  
Newsletter: – Michael Andrewes, Dave Solomon
Graphic Design: – Dave Solomon
Website: – Richard Holland
Photography: – Dave Solomon, Nicky Solomon, Stephen Murphy
Audio Engineer: – John Patrick
Videographer: – Robert van der Vyver
Gala night function: – Colin Gibson, Judy Russell
Project liaison: – Sarah Oliver, Heidi Thompson
Regional Co-ordinators: – Jan Babington (Oamaru), Ruth Briscoe (Wanaka), Bill Christie (Gore)   

Opera , Comedy , Comic Opera ,

Marathon effort the stuff of dreams, or perhaps nightmares

Review by Louise Petherbridge 06th Aug 2012

In London, death-defying athletes are flinging themselves from diving boards, hurtling over hurdles or running till their lungs are at bursting point. In Dunedin, at 6pm, the curtain at the Mayfair Theatre rises to a full house exactly on time. This is the final lap of a gigantic artistic marathon.  

The athletes are in excellent form and we are treated to an evening of breath-taking ebullience and the wonderful contradiction that Gilbert and Sullivan operas invariably achieve: a perfectly controlled anarchy. The race ends at 10.30pm. 

Considering the average age of the audience (well on the wrong side of sixty, my own contribution weighed heavily), it is a tribute to the performers that they hold the house in rapt attention until the finishing post four and a half hours later, and only seconds before the expiry of our hearing aid batteries!

Now the Gilbert and Sullivan Trust can retire to think up other splendid schemes, having succeeded – over a period from 2002 to 2012 – in presenting all the works arising from that extraordinary partnership between W.S.Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.

The evening begins with Trial by Jury, a short curtain raiser in which a man of fickle preferences falls out of love and is faced with a breach of promise case. In spite of stern warnings to remain unbiased, everyone sides with the injured maiden and the judge ends up marrying her himself. Poking fun at the law is legion in Gilbert’s work, and this is no exception.

Directed by John Drummond, the production is brisk, highly competent and very amusing, with spirited performances from Dave Solomon as the learned judge, Matt Wilson as the naughty defendant, and Sophie Uriaro as the sweet plaintiff. They are well supported by John Kiernan-Sear as Counsel, Bruce MacMillan as the Usher, and Karl Power as the Foreman of the Jury.

After a break for ‘light refreshments’ we are back to the games again. This time the performance is of The Grand Duke, and the plot involves a negligible little state which is about to have an election.

A company of actors plans to overthrow the Duke and take charge of the country. The conspirators identify themselves to one another by the mutual consumption of sausage rolls: an example of Goonish humour at its zaniest.

There are some delightful spoofs on the civil service, and a visit from the Prince of Monte Carlo who has invented the roulette wheel to boost his finances. What’s new! This is a fiendishly difficult piece with long though amusing speeches to learn, impossibly demanding patter songs and a great deal of movement.

Hilary Norris’s excellent direction has sorted out most of this, but the company has to work terribly hard in the second act. I’m filled with admiration at the team-work and the obvious pleasure with which the singers tackle their tasks.

However, there is a problem with audibility in the last act. I don’t think it is poor enunciation: perhaps the orchestra over-rides the singers in volume. That said, sincere congratulations are due to the Southern Sinfonia ably led by Sydney Manowitz and conducted by Michael Andrewes himself. 

The musicians work under difficult conditions in the small orchestra pit but never falter in tone. They provide a marvellous sea of sound leading the singers gently to their cues or urging them forward with surges of power.  (Perhaps I’m imagining it but near the end of the Grand Duke’s score, is there a change in rhythm and orchestration which hints at ragtime?) 

The cast is admirably led by three distinguished guest artists who have worked extensively overseas: Joel Allen as Ludwig, Justin Friend as Ernest and Brian McKay as the Prince of Monte Carlo.

Barry Dorking does a fine comic turn as Rudolf the Grand Duke, while among the ladies, Nadya Shaw Bennet is a charming Julia, and Sarah Oliver a lively Lisa. Jane Robertson is an elegant Baroness von Krakenfeldt, and Erin Cameron makes an engaging Princess of Monte Carlo, despite a rather distracting accent.

Nor must the host of excellent chorus singers be forgotten.

Now I have told you all that might reasonably be expected: the plots, which are just the frame to hang the work on; and the actors’ names and my opinion of their work, which is honest admiration. Indeed I feel awe for the focused effort, and behind that, years of research, tinkering with the meccano of the grand venture, searching for its form.

So this tremendous ten year marathon by the G & S Trust, and the anarchic nature of the territory covered, is the stuff of dreams, or perhaps nightmares:  Gilbert and Sullivan make harsh criticisms of politics and religion, comical when mercilessly exposed, only mitigated by the lullaby of the music, “the wordless other in a sea of words.”

Make mincemeat of me if you will, I shall “have to be contented with a rose or a lil – li.” Anyone know the reference? Happy dreams!  


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