Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



6.1. Uniforms

Mary Finn wrote: A'many years ago, when I costumed Pinafore, I put Capt. Corcoran in a comic opera uniform, but dressed Sir Joseph as a cabinet minister. My aim was to underscore, for an American audience, that the First Lord of the Admiralty was a political, not a military, position. I also once saw a production of Pinafore at Harvard in which Sir Joseph wore a bright orange life preserver (over a comic opera uniform) throughout the show. A bit over the top, but I found it funny.

Chris Webster aslked: What are the origins of the traditional costume as worn in D'Oyly Carte productions. We know that the Lord Chancellor and Peers costumes are authentic, and I expect the Major General's, but I do not know anything about SJP's. David Duffey replied: I understand the "traditional" costume worn by Sir J to be quite authentic as the dress uniform of civilians of ambassador, high commissioner and like rank. I believe it would be worn on ceremonial occasions, and not for a visit to one of HM ships in home waters on a private matter.

And John Baesch observed: Yes, he was a member of the government, not the military. Although the job of First Lord of the Admiralty is a government appointment, that's not to say that the job doesn't come with a uniform. There is a famous portrait of Sir Winston Churchill commissioned when he was First Lord in The Great War showing him in uniform. I also believe some latitude is allowed in the design of the uniform. Besides, it would be intolerably tacky to wear the insignia of the Most Noble Order of the Bath on a lounge suit. The most effective presentation of Sir Joseph Porter is to make him look as much like Lord Horatio Nelson as possible, thus accenting the irony. Nelson was also a KCB, and had he lived to a ripe old age like Wellington might one day have been appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. Having said all that, I think the production with Sir Joseph Porter in an orange life vest would also "work." The thought of it certainly brought the irony home to me.

6.2 A Dress Rehearsal Mishap

Paul McShane noted: Tim Devlin's contribution to the discussion on the Phase4 CD release [See section 7.1] reminded me of a dress rehearsal of Pinafore I was involved with, in which the whole cast bounced forward merrily from the rear of the stage at the start of "Let's give three cheers.." near the end of the Act I finale. Unfortunately, their forward momentum carried the whole stage forward a few feet without them realising what had happened, so that when they all danced backwards a few bars later, those at the rear disappeared into an abyss between the back of the stage and the rear wall. A few injuries, too - not what the director wanted on dress rehearsal night.

Page created 24 October 1997