Kirkcaldy Gilbert & Sullivan Society meets peace, love and flower power

Chloe Thompson, Jennifer Paton and Amanda Gear of KGASS (All pics by Fife Photo Agency)
Chloe Thompson, Jennifer Paton and Amanda Gear of KGASS (All pics by Fife Photo Agency)

Just have a little bit of Patience...

This year’s production from the Kirkcaldy Gilbert and Sullivan Society (KGASS) is only the fourth time since 1950 that it has performed the operetta, which made its London debut in 1881.

Robin Ozog

Robin Ozog

Patience satirised the ‘aesthetic craze’ of the 1870s and 80s and proved to be a big hit for the pair.

KGASS director and cast member Robin Ozog says although it’s not one of the best known works of Gilbert and Sullivan, he was keen to bring it back to the Kirkcaldy stage for the first time since 1997 and it returns with the new title Patience ‘68.

“It’s not been done a lot of times,” he said, “it’s not one of their more popular ones.

“It’s not up there with the big hitters like Pirates of Penzance or the The Gondoliers, but there’s a lot of really, really good music in it.

Rehearsals are taking place at Hunter Hall

Rehearsals are taking place at Hunter Hall

“The songs are terrific so it deserves an outing every so often.”

The change of name for the production this year signifies a shift from its original Victorian setting, to the late 1960s era of peace, love and flower power.

Robin explained: “The story is about aestheticism in the 1870s and 80s and in the 1960s we had moved on to flower power.

“The two things are not the same by any manner of means, but the mannerisms are similar; the effeminacy of moving about, generally letting yourself go and enjoying life, are quite similar.

Elaine Young

Elaine Young

“In the production we’ve put it all on to a television show as well. We have a TV show and it moves to a live broadcast with a continuity announcer, so there’s wee twists here and there.

“In that regard it’s different, but the music is the same. Some of the words are different though, we’ve brought in a little bit of 1960s stuff.”

KGASS itself remains popular, with new members joining the cast of amateur performers and volunteers for the first time.

“We’ve got one or two new faces joining us this year,” Robin said. “Michael Scott is a principal with us for the first time and we’ve got some new chorus members this year too.

Principal actor Michael Scott

Principal actor Michael Scott

“Some people have also come back this year so we’re lively. We have 20-odd in the ladies’ chorus and 12 in the men’s.

“This is where we have to draw a balance with it. There’s not a lot of the chorus line in act two this year, for example.

“People come along to us to socialise and take part in the singing, so I have to make sure there is ample for everyone to do.”

One member of the cast who definitely does not fall into the newbie category is Elaine Young, from Thornton, who joined the Society in 1990, having sang since she was a child.

“I used to entertain the Women’s Guild when my mum was the president and I was about 10 and I’ve been singing ever since really,” she said, “I’ve been on stage since I was 17.

“I joined in 1990 and the first show I took part in was the Mikado the following year – I’ve done seven of those since!

Patience artwork by P6 pupils from Fair Isle PS

Patience artwork by P6 pupils from Fair Isle PS

“I’ve done every show since except the Pirates of Penzance last year, but even then I helped with front of house and other things, so I was still involved.”

Elaine says more than anything it’s the music that sees her returning each year.

“I love the music,” she said. “I think it’s really nice to listen to as well as being really funny.

“Gilbert was so witty and a lot of it, which comes from the Victorian era, still applies today.

“For example, you can apply it to things that are happening in Parliament right now. It is transferable, although we’ve updated Patience this year to 1968.

“So I enjoy the music, as well as the fun.

“I sing in Fife Opera as well. I’m more of a classical singer than a musicals one, so this is better for my voice. Classical and opera is something that I would sit and listen to and would still laugh at it, even though I’ve heard it before and I know what’s coming. The jokes are really good.

“I’m really looking forward to this year. I think it will be good fun.”

The idea of KGASS updating the setting for Patience is a bid to keep up with the modern era, and to keep things interesting for both audience and cast.

Robin said: “When Gilbert and Sullivan wrote their operettas I don’t think they’d have thought they’d still be getting performed 150 years later.

“They’re all adaptable – and they’re all out of copyright so you can do what you like!

“If you played about with the likes of Shrek or My Fair Lady you’d get into trouble. With G&S you don’t, so we can do that. However, the ethos of the show remains, the music remains, it just has a different twist, which I like to do with every show I direct.

“So if you’ve seen it 10 times before it’s something different and there’s something a bit extra for you to enjoy.

“For G&S to have a future it really has to adapt to the modern day.

“Productions didn’t used to have a lot of movement. They were what was known as red book productions, originally put on the by the D’Oyly Carte company in London, but now the copyright’s all gone, we can play about with them.

“If you’d seen some of the shows KGASS did 20 years ago, you would see that the chorus was quite static, with not a lot of movement with the principals and any that did happen was very traditional, but not any more.

“They were written in the 19th century and we’re now in the 21st century.

“Things have moved on.”