My peripatetic life finds me based at Hatch End, near Harrow, North London for five weeks. So I must ask…what is Hatch End famous for?
My go-to introduction to an area, Wikipedia, mentions Mrs Beeton, dubbed the world’s first celebrity chef who lived here in the middle of the 19th century. More on her and this quite erroneous title at a later date.
The ancient earthworks Grimsdyke also run through the area, and gives its name to W.S. Gilbert’s home, now a hotel, at which I am eagerly anticipating taking high tea at with a friend now its midterm break. This is the Gilbert whose name is now inextricably linked with Sullivan, Gilbert and Sullivan fame. He was the wordsmith of the pairing.
My love of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas is truly lifelong. I believe the amateur production of Pirates of Penzance in Waipukurau was the first live production my parents took me to, at the age of 7 or 8. I was entranced, especially by the transformation of one of my school teachers by the simple expedient of a pretty pink dress into the heroine Mabel.
A few years later, I attended the Mikado, performed by Morrinsville College students. Fast forward a few more years, and I am cast as the Duchess of Plaza Toro in the Gondoliers in our Whangarei High School musical. Not quite the heroine of the piece, but lots of fun and hard work, led by our talented director, Michael Hainsworth aka Head of Languages.
By this time my love for G & S was sealed. (My love of G & T comes a little later). I am drawn by the mix of ludicrous plot lines and clever lyrics with hummable tunes and grand harmonies. Then of course there is the dressing up
I am surprised by the lack of publicity for the Topsy Turvey, the film based on the professional pairing of Gilbert, Sullivan and their manager, d’Oyly Carte. I managed to catch it at the Mission Bay Berkeley cinema, back in its more boutique days (c. 2000), but it seems to have died a death, despite the casting of the notable Timothy Spall. It’s a great introduction as many of the operas are showcased here.
The film Chariots of Fire made a big impression on me too, and I will always remember with pleasure the inclusion of several G and S songs into the groundbreaking film score.