Friday 25 February 2011

Book Blogger Hop and Trial By Jury/Pirates of Penzance, Gilbert and Sullivan

The Book Blogger Hop
Book Blogger Hop
It's Friday again and time for the Book Blogger Hop. The Hop is a quick and easy way to find out what other book blogs are out there, and to find out a little about the people behind them. The Hop is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books, and if you visit her site you'll find a question to answer and lots of clicky-links to all this week's Hoppers' blogs, all in one place. Simples!
"Do you ever wish you would have named your blog something different?"
Actually, yes I do. Katie's Book Blog may tell you what the blog is about, but it doesn't have much personality to it, and there are plenty of other Katies out there with book blogs. I wish I'd used a bit more imagination when I started blogging. I've also included reviews of film and TV, so it's only mostly about books. Perhaps a title with "Story" in it would be more appropriate. Still, at least I won't be able to look back in a couple of years and groan, "what was I thinking to come up with such a cheesy name?!" as I have done in the past.

Theatre: Trial by Jury/Pirates of Penzance, Gilbert and Sullivan

The last couple of months I haven't been able to read and write as much as I'd like as I've been in rehearsals for a double bill of Gilbert and Sullivan: Trial By Jury and Pirates of Penzance. As you can imagine, trying to fit rehearsals for two shows into the same space as the usual one has been a lot of hard work and quite stressful at times. Two weeks ago it seemed that these operettas would never be ready for an audience! But credit to all involved, each rehearsal was noticeably better than the last and at last on our dress rehearsal we were informed by our patient but pernickety Musical Director that it was going to be a "really good show."

We're setting Trial in the modern day, despite it being about a trial for Breach Of Promise Of Marriage. I've been cast as the Counsel for the Plaintiff, originally a man's part. I'm loving the part, as - for a change! - there is no giggling, swooning or screaming involved - I just get to power-dress and glower over a pair of glasses. I'm looking forward to seeing the DVD of the show as I miss much of what is going on, either because the character is studiously ignoring everyone else's disgraceful behaviour, or because the judge - a red-faced drunken buffoon - sits behind me.

Ruth and the Pirate King
Pirates is set more traditionally in the late 19th century - you really can't do anything else, with its particular finale - and that means (for the ladies) big, heavy dresses and sun-bonnets. It may look very pretty but get very hot and uncomfortable under the stage lights. The pirates are a fearsome crew of scoundrels with plenty of scars, swords and "arrrr!" - and Ruth, the "piratical maid-of-all-work" seems to take great pleasure in her make-up, with stick-on warts, blackened teeth, a mono-brow and Johnny Depp-style beads dangling from her bandanna. The woman's only supposed to be forty-seven years old. Evidently a life of piracy does not suit her. And she does not suit a life of piracy. Anyone who has read Swallows and Amazons knows that you just can't have a pirate named Ruth. Pirates should be ruthless. (Though, bless 'em, they do try to get rid of her with Frederic. And besides, they're pretty useless pirates. For one thing, they don't drink rum, but sherry!)

A policeman and
relax at the bar.
Pirates is probably the best-loved and most accessible of Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas - probably because pirates make anything more interesting! It has some wonderful songs that everyone is familiar with, notably the Major-General's song, "A Policeman's Lot is Not A Happy One, and "With Cat-Like Tread" (The tune of the chorus, "Come, friends, who plough the sea..." is one I've known all my life without knowing what it was.) The heroine, Mabel, has some ridiculously over-the top "warbles" that I always thought marked her out as being a bit of a spoilt princess - thankfully the director agreed, and this is how she is being played.

This is my favourite part of the show, as performed with great energy by the Australian Opera.

Mabel and Frederic
We usually have a problem in our company finding enough men for the shows - notoriously, last year's The Sorcerer, which involves pairing off the chorus after a love potion is put into the teapot, ended with each man marrying two wives! If you know Trial by Jury, you'll know that this is Not Allowed - it is Burglary [sic]. This year, as well as having a big enough men's chorus for policemen AND pirates, AND to pair off with all the ladies at the end, we even had a young tenor to cast as Frederic, a rather important role to get right as the plot revolves around his twenty-first birthday. (Except it isn't - he was born on February 29th in a leap year, which means that he is a little boy of five!)

"Paulette" and "Michelle"
So far there have been two performances and aside from a few muddled words and missed entrances, it seems to have gone pretty well - certainly better than the pessimists were predicting a couple of weeks ago. Tuesday was the dress rehearsal, and that day we had the local paper's photographer in, so the actors who played the Pirate King and Major-General Stanley were in those costumes through Trial. Wednesday, opening night, I walked into the theatre clubroom to see their Trial costumes for the first time. There they were, in their wigs... skirts... handbags. How was I going to keep my Mrs Grumpy Face act up looking at that? Couldn't they have given me some warning? But when it came down to it, I barely noticed, being too busy watching the musical director. In fact I think I stayed in character throughout Trial, despite a coatstand crashing down on me as I made my entrance. I glared at it and let someone else pick it up. In actual fact I was thinking, "Oh help! I don't know how to make this work in the scene. Let's pretend that didn't happen."

Two more days to go, three more performances, and then I hope I'll be able to get back to posting regular book reviews. In the meantime I'll leave you with a clip from another Australian production of Pirates - they seem to do the best! This song is originally from Ruddigore but is sometimes included in Pirates. After all, "this particularly rapid unintelligible patter isn't generally heard, and if it is, it doesn't matter." Enjoy!


  1. What's in a name? Everything! A name is a label, a description and a promise. I'm very happy with mine - "Howard Sherman, Implementor" but it was quite a journey to get there.

    Hop on over to my blog and find out why -

    Howard Sherman

  2. I think your blog name is nice. It tells people what the blog is about, plus you have a really nice layout. ^_^

  3. I like your blog name. Simplicity at its best! Mine is simple as well: a GREAT read. I just like to emphasize on the books I read and just how great they were.

    Then of course I usually bring up other info that can be somewhat related to books, like cover art, upcoming titles and releases and then movies that relate to books somehow as well.

    So starting to think I should've had "rambling" in my title somewhere, but oh well!!

    Old Follower
    Here's my Friday Hops

    Have a GREAT weekend!

  4. Hi just hopping by to give you your invitation-I was wondering when I saw your profile if there is a Isle of Wright author you can suggest-especially and older author

    I would like to invite you to consider participating in

    Irish Short Story Week-3/14 to 3/20

  5. Yes, I too, like your blog name :)
    In retrospect, I wish sometimes that I might have named my differently as there are several other blogs with either similar or virtually identical names, but I wouldn't think about changing now, so, c'est la vie!


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