H.M.S. Pinafore

or The Lass that Loved a Sailor

By W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan

16th - 19th November 2005
Joseph Rowntree Theatre

H.M.S. Pinafore was the fourth collaboration for the partners, and their first major success. It ran for an almost unprecedented 571 performances. The objects of its gentle satire are, as so often with G & S, class differences, incompetence in high places, and parliamentary politics.

Josephine, Captain Corcoran’s daughter, is in love with Ralph Rackstraw, a foremast hand on her father’s ship, although she is sought in marriage by Sir Joseph Porter KCB, First Lord of the Admiralty (a shameless satire on W.H. Smith – the newsagent!). The Captain himself is beloved of Little Buttercup, a Portsmouth bumboat woman, who supplies the sailors with tobacco and other goodies. She holds a dark secret! Josephine and Ralph plan to escape, but their plan is betrayed by Dick Deadeye and they are caught. At which point Little Buttercup reveals that she was the nurse of both the Captain and Ralph, and swapped them in infancy, so Ralph is really the Captain and the Captain a lowly sailor. Everyone marries everyone else and the opera ends happily!

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The Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B. (First Lord of The Admiralty)

John Soper

Captain Corcoran (Commanding HMS Pinafore)

Ian Small

Ralph Rackstraw (Able Seaman)

Ashley Wilson

Dick Deadeye (Able Seaman)

Clive Marshall

Bill Bobstay (Boatswain)

Will Gausden

Bob Beckett (Carpenter)

Andy Pearce

Tom Tucker (Midshipmite)

Laura Soper

Josephine (The Captain's daughter)

Hilary Minford

Hebe (Sir Joseph's First Cousin)

Rosy Jamieson

Little Buttercup (A Portsmouth Bumboat Woman)

Irene Hollett


Musical Director – Alasdair Jamieson

Director – Pauline Chadwick


Set Design – John Soper

Costume Design – Maggie Soper



‘Jolly tale almost had me singing as I left theatre’ – The Press, November 17 2005

As a complete novice to the world of Gilbert and Sullivan, I was unsure what to expect from this well-loved operetta. But it did make me laugh a lot, and I felt so upbeat I was almost singing when I left. I have the impression audiences at performances like this know the music inside out – but maybe it is time for more newcomers to give it a try.

HMS Pinafore is a jolly tale about a group of seamen whose Captain’s daughter falls in love with a humble sailor, even though she is being chased by the First Lord of the Admiralty. It has great rousing choruses and the soloists were wonderful to hear, particularly the heroine, Josephine. The sailors and ladies march, twirl and creep across the stage in formations which make you think of numerous Royal Variety shows. But the performers were so funny and often slapstick that they reminded me of Morecambe and Wise. The songs too are familiar, and the one that sounded like a theme tune, ‘He Is An Englishman’, cropped up several times so I soon knew the words.

Gilbert and Sullivan were extremely popular in the 19th century and this almost feels like a precursor to modern West End shows. It is great to sit back and enjoy the show without any fear of misunderstanding the plot. The point is that Josephine cannot marry her sailor because he is too low and there is some doubt about her raising her expectations to a peer. These doubts can be overcome – but when Josephine discovers she is actually the daughter of a humble seaman there is no way her Lord will accept her. Things work out for the best, in the most comedic way, and you can go home humming opera songs you actually know the words of!

Karen Grattage


Registered charity 700279