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A whistlestop tour of G&S

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: January 31, 2013

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SQUEEZING the full Gilbert and Sullivan catalogue into a 90-minute show will require a very big shoehorn.

But director Joe Harmston gives it his all for Gilbert And Sullivan Abridged, which comes to Swansea's Grand Theatre on Saturday.

A long-term devotee of the wit and daftness of Gilbert and Sullivan, Joe spent 2012 in the altogether darker, more pessimistic world of Strindberg with his production of The Father.

"In fact I have had Strindberg and G&S in one day today since the Strindberg has been commissioned by BBC radio.

"So I had a lunch meeting with them about that, then back to the silliness of G&S.

"As you can imagine, this one is a very serious, high-minded piece of drama — the full Gilbert and Sullivan condensed into 90 minutes and lovingly presented by the Scratchy Bottom Wind and Light Opera Society."

Joe's love of the light operatic charms of G&S go way back, he says.

"I absolutely loved it as a child but I had forgotten about it a little as an adult, so it was wonderful to be able to get back to it.

"I was very fortunate that the first time I ever saw Gilbert and Sullivan was as a child in the last year that D'Oyly Carte were performing at their Savoy Theatre.

"My parents weren't theatre people but they just wanted to take me along to see if I would enjoy the theatre experience and I was delighted by it.

"Pirates of Penzance was that first one I saw, which is probably the best one to see as an introduction to Gilbert and Sullivan."

There are, of course, certain things people expect from a night of Gilbert and Sullivan, so taking a scalpel to their works is fraught with peril.

But the duo's hallmarks of sly wit, wordiness, incredible rhymes and political bite are intact, says Joe.

"Yes, the challenge was always going to be how to please everybody, which we can't, of course.

"In fact, I have been on Twitter to talk to the G&S communities and societies to ask them what those necessary elements are as far as they are concerned.

"Out of that came enough material to put on several shows.

"But one of the things I am really looking forward to in bringing this show to Swansea and to the Grand, aside from the fact that I love the theatre, is getting feedback from the societies there.

"I am bracing myself to hear their input."

The show sets sail at 7.30pm, finishing at 9pm.

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