MUGGS H.M.S Pinafore


By Samuel Codd


Manchester Universities’ Gilbert and Sullivan Society is the biggest, brightest and most innovative student drama organisation in the north-west.  Having celebrated their 60th anniversary in 2011, they now return to the Royal Northern College of Music, Oxford Road, Manchester in 2012 for their sixth season in the prestigious Opera Theatre for an energetic new take on perhaps the most famous British opera of all time, H.M.S. Pinafore.


Despite being over 60 years old and performing shows written and composed over 100 years ago, MUGSS still manages to have a 50 strong cast, a relatively competent crew and a regular annual booking in a 600 seat venue.  But what could it be about Victorian light opera that could possibly appeal to the modern day student?


Perhaps it’s the rich social life of a group sometimes referred to as a drinking society with a musical theatre problem.  Perhaps it’s the brightly coloured and sometimes provocative costumes (even by today’s standards) that the cast get to wear. Most likely though, is that the biggest attraction is the show itself.  Being at one of the rehearsals for H.M.S. Pinafore it’s difficult not to be affected when the company sings the rousing chorus of ‘For He Is An Englishman’.  It’s also difficult not to be filled with joy when the cast sneak on stage in a comically coarse way, before being startled by what is probably the star of the show, a fully functioning animatronics cat.


The Director, Philip Sweet, has set the show in Jane Austen’s England, basing the set on the historic HMS Victory.  He has also included a brand new entr’acte, ‘The Sailors’ Farewell’, written by the Director to immerse the audience even further into the world of swashbucling sailors and distressed damsels, as well as giving the group more opportunity to show off the versatility and talent of its performers.  MUGSS always manages to add a contemporary twist to Gilbert & Sullivan, this year being no exception, although they’ve had no need to compromise on the traditional element of the show.  Gilbert & Sullivan were well known for witty and sometimes controversial satire which has somehow managed to remain largely relevant today.  MUGSS’s take on Pinafore sets it at a time when the Royal Navy was reeling from huge cutbacks, when serving personnel were being made redundant and many were very worried about their future; almost spooky.


The show is being performed on one of the UK’s largest stages, backed by a full orchestra, led by the very competent hands of the two musical directors, James Hendry and Thomas Jarvis, both students of the RNCM.  This year the show features many singers from the RNCM, giving it probably the most musically talented cast they have ever had. Supported by what is probably Manchester’s most enthusiastic chorus this production will be one to enjoy for connoisseurs of opera and complete newcomers alike.


H.M.S. Pinafore is on at in the RNCM theatre between Wednesday 22nd and Saturday 25th February, with a show at 7.30 every evening and an additional matinee performance at 2.30pm on the Saturday.  Tickets are available from the RNCM Box Office or from


For more information on the show or the society you can contact them at or call our publicity team on 07973625085.


Find MUGSS on Facebook, follow them on twitter or visit the website


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