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Trial By Jury @ Phoenix Theatre

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by Douglas Sutherland-Bruce (subscribe)
Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at:
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Most of Gilbert and Sullivan's Savoy operettas have stood the test of time and are as relevant today as they ever were - seedy politicians, devious lawyers, duty, ambition and love are pretty much still the same.

What has changed is the 'Breech of Promise' action - a woman suing a man who withdraws an offer of marriage. Much beloved as a fictional device in the late 19th and early 20th century, the stature remained on the books until quite recently (1969).

Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial By Jury is one such theatrical treat but it is only 43 minutes long so Barry Page, the director, with musical direction from Michael Vertigan, decided to add the short play How To Make Your Theatre Pay and the skit Dinner For One thus delivering a "potpourri of music and comedy" for a complete night out.

Having been involved with the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire for a large amount of my theatre life after taking up directing four years ago, I always wanted to direct one of the operettas," Page said.

"Trial by Jury is a classic containing the typical wit of Gilbert and Sullivan's exquisite music with the story based around a Breach of Promise of Marriage.

There is no dialogue in the operetta – it's a pure vocal story like Les Miserables."

The operetta is usually set in the 1890s but Page has changed it to the 1920s to make it more colourful and interesting.

When we changed the setting, we checked to see if Breach of Promise court actions were still law at the time and found we were on safe ground."
Allira Humberstone, Jenny Trestrail and Tlalit Orr are the bridesmaids in the "Trial By Jury"

Involved in theatre since 1950, Page started out in a school production of The Mikado and has performed extensively with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Victora and Babirra Music Theatre in musicals such as Kiss Me Kate, Desert Song and Die Fledermaus.

After moving to WA in 2004, he directed and performed various shows with Rockingham Theatre including Fawlty Towers, Lend Me a Tenor, Arsenic and Old Lace and My Friend Miss Flint and directed Agatha Christie Made Do It at Phoenix Theatre last year.

I've seen Dinner for One performed before while in a revue, which made me aware of its visual humour, and I previously directed How to Make Your Theatre Pay," Page said.

I've also created some dialogue to go between the plays to give a blended presentation, in the lead-up to Trial By Jury.

"Although Dinner for One was written by an Englishman, it's been performed across Europe in 17 different languages and is staged in Germany every New Year's Eve."

Page says anyone who's been involved in local theatre management will relate to the dedicated volunteers trying to keep the performing arts alive in How to Make Your Theatre Pay.

"The theatre's future plans are interrupted by a bureaucrat who only looks at the financial side of the argument, disrupting years of dedication to the arts in one fell swoop," he said.

"It's pure and wholesome satire throughout."
Officious council employee (Willy Smeets) demands the local stage becomes profitable in "How To Make Your Theatre Pay", causing Mavis (Suzanne Mettner) and Mike (Adam Mettner) to rapidly re-shape their artistic visions

Trial By Jury, Dinner for One and How To Make Your Theatre Pay play at 8pm, May 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19 with 2pm matinees on May 12 and 20.

A charity performance will also be held at 8pm, May 10, to raise money for the Cockburn Wetlands Education Centre.

Tickets are $20 adults, $15 concession – book on 0450 158 851 or at

Phoenix Theatre is located on the corner of Rockingham Road and Carrington Street, Hamilton Hill, within the Hamilton Hill Memorial Hall.
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Why? A potpourri of music and comedy
When: 8:00pm, matinees at 2:00pm
Where: Phoenix Theatre, Corner of Rockingham Road and Carrington Street, Hamilton Hill
Cost: $20, $15 Concession
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