Start of Buxton International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival

Start of Buxton International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival (RJW)

Opera House and Pavilion Theatre, Buxton, Derbyshire, 28.7.2012-18.8.2012

This annual festival is now in its 19th year and is the result of the dedicated and excellent direction of Ian and Neil Smith. This year the events carry an appropriate Jubilee theme and Queen Victoria is very much in evidence.

The opening day on Sunday (29.7.12) started the festival with a bang! A jubilee theme celebrated facets of Victorian life that would not have been out of place in the Victorian Farm series: an apothecary had brought a chemist’s shop of the period, showed distillation apparatus used to distill herb essences, use of egg albumen, and an opportunity to roll pills by any children present. Elsewhere, Victorian baking and sandwich making provided the quintessential Afternoon Tea, and all this could all be washed down by an audience with Queen Victoria herself.

Photo Credit: Charles Smith

The afternoon saw a professional Opera House production of The Mikado, devised by Simon Butteriss (which opened the previous day). Those who attended commented to me on the freshness of the production and a hilarious ‘Little list’.

In the Pavilion Theatre, which acts as the ‘Fringe’ to the Buxton Festival, Matlock Gilbert & Sullivan Society gave two rare performances of Merrie England to full houses. (See separate review)

An evening Festival ‘special’ on the Opera House stage was a ‘Buxton Proms’ given by the Festival Orchestra under Timothy Henty, with guest appearances of Jill Pert and Richard Suart, They carried the vocals with well-seasoned and well-tuned comedy. (See separate review)

This season carries an interesting mix of amateur and professional productions, not solely of G&S but of shows of similar vintage that are to many of us just names yet which we wish to know more about. The Contrabandista (1869), The Prodigal Son (1869), The Quaker Girl, and unfairly neglected The Grand Duke.

An important facet to the Festival is the contribution made by a number of youth groups. Last year there was an outstanding production of HMS Pinafore that carried many overtones of professionalism. This year there are youth productions of a ‘Youth Festival Gala’ where the youngsters will entertain with various musical items (2 August, 2.30pm) and a full production of Ruddigore (4 August, 2.30 & 7.30pm).

Throughout the festival talks on Early Cylinder Recording, Gilbert’s eminent Victorians, Flanders & Swann, Musical Parody in G&S, Savoy Scenic Design, and C19th theatre technology are taking place. The Festival club is open to all and follows the evening’s performances in the adjacent Pavilion Gardens restaurant. An extension to the Festival is the established link with Chatsworth House where this year singer Jill Pert performs in their charming theatre on 10th August.

Raymond J Walker

All details at and bookings on 01298 72190.