Vol. 6 No. 1 (Spring 1985)

FORUM - MOIRA DAY TALKS ABOUT STAGING W. H. FULLEWS H.M.S. PARLIAMENT

While its wit, music, and structural tightness make H.M.S. Parliament one of the most appealing of Canadaa nineteenth -century plays, a variety of other factors also make it one of the most challenging to revive. Aside from the problem of the operetta's diminished topicality as a political satire, the modern director also must cope with serious discrepancies between the Fuller text and the original Pinafore score. In this article, the director of the 1983 University of Toronto production discusses both the appeal and the problems of producing the operetta today.

Tandis que les traits d'ésprit, la musique et Vétroitresse du format de la pièce H. M. S. Parfiament font-elle l'une des pièces la plus émouvante des pièces canadiennes du dix-neuvième siècle, c'est la variété des autre éléments qui la fait l'une des pièces la plus difficile à renaître. A part du problème que l'opérette avait diminué son actualité comme satire politique, le mettre en scène de nos l'ours doit aussi faire face aux grandes différences entre le texte de Fuller et la partition originale de Pinafore. Cette article par le mettre en scène de la réalisation de H.M.S. Parliament, pendant l'année 1983 à Universite de Toronto trait le charme et aussi les déscaccords qui arrivent auJourd'hui dans la réalisation de l'opérette.

When William Henry Fuller and the Eugene McDowell Company collaborated to produce H.M.S. Parliament in February of 1880, they were obviously more intent on staging a play for their own than for all time. In fact, Fuller's 'piece of extravagance'1 was a timely and clever exploitation of two of the most popular shows of the day: the English operetta H.M.S. Pinafore and the Canadian political circus in Ottawa.

The audience entering the Academy of Music in Montreal that long ago winter evening still found Sullivan's music and Gilbert's plot and characterizations in evidence. However, the whole somehow had been transformed into a uniquely Canadian satire of national politics and manners. Gilbert's besieged Captain Corcoran had become an equally besieged Captain McA (John A. Macdonald) trying to keep order on his unruly Ship of State. The dour Dick Deadeye had become an equally dour Alexander MacDeadeye (Alexander Mackenzie) still smarting from his fall from power two years earlier. Sir Joseph Porter KCB had found his counterpart in Sir Samuel Sillery KMG (Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, KCMG), McA's formidable finance minister, whose reliance on the National Policy2 (NP) for economic reform is matched only by Sir Joseph's reliance on hornpipes and etiquette to effect British naval reform. In a move that mocked the romantic conventions of the Pinafore as much as the philistinism of Ottawa society, the worthy young lovers, Josephine and Ralph, became the much worldlier Angelina and Sam Snifter3,the representatives of a bustling Canadian society in which love is 'star crossed' more by considerations of money and political alliances than a hereditary class system.

So successful was Parliament that the operetta's initial week-long run in Montreal soon expanded into a national tour that extended from Halifax to Winnipeg.4 Yet, for all its favourable reception, Parliament virtually vanished at the end of its triumphant tour. A number of factors may have contributed to the operetta's early retirement; however, the main one seems to have been that even by August the play was dated. Alexander Mackenzie had resigned as leader of the opposition that spring, and the stirrings of financial recovery seemed to be vindicating the controversial NP. Under the circumstances, the McDowell company probably felt it was time for the operetta to be retired as a good thing that had run its natural course.

There is a certain irony, then, in the fact that, while much of the more serious Canadian drama of the period has dated badly' Fuller's 'piece of extravagance,' which was never meant to last in the same way, has weathered the years with considerably better grace. Certainly, interest and enthusiasm have continued to build around the operetta ever since it became more publicly accessible in 1978 through CTR's Canada's Lost Plays, series. Aside from its inclusion in a 1982 CBC program of excerpts from nineteenth-century operettas, Parliament has reached production twice in modern times: once in an eight-man dinner theatre version by the Fort Erie Gilbert and Sullivan Repertory Company in January 1979, and, again, in a fuller twenty-two-cast production by the University of Toronto Graduate Centre for the Study of Drama, 13-16 April 1983.

Why all this interest in a play considered dated less than a year after its initial appearance? Speaking as the director of the Toronto production, I would say that Fuller's sparkling wit remains the main preserving spice; his irreverent treatment of love and politics spares the operetta from the worst excesses of Victorian sentiment and patriotism. Moreover, the broader issues the play satirizes, such as inefficiency in the civil service and various forms of government corruption, are as relevant today as they were in 1880. Similarly, Fuller's characters continue to function as certain humorous political 'types,' even where they are no longer recognizable as individuals.

Beyond this, however, time has proved unexpectedly kind to the operetta in other ways. Fuller could hardly have dreamt that a number of the economic ills plaguing the 1880s would return to haunt the 1980s, giving his jibes at inflation and an unpopular NP new relevance to a modern audience similarly disgruntled with rising costs and the equally unpopular NEP. Neither could Fuller have foreseen that at least two of his main characters, Macdonald and Mackenzie, would be immediately recognizable to future audiences as the stuff of national legend. Nor could Fuller have known that Pinafore would prove an enduring classic, allowing even a modern audience to appreciate the burlesque aspect of the operetta.

One could go a step further and say that Parliament continues to succeed overall for many of the same reasons Pinafore does. Like the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, Parliament was actively designed to be a staged work; as such, it is a tightly-crafted piece that avoids the turgidity, length, and complex settings of much nineteenth-century Canadian closet drama. Moreover, like Pinafore, Fuller's operetta has a particular genius for combining its appealing element of lively satire with the equally appealing elements of spectacle and enchanting music.

For all these reasons, if any nineteenth-century Canadian play seems due for a modern, professional revival, it is H.M.S. Parliament. Unfortunately, along with its numerous charms, Parliament presents the modern director with a number of problems peculiar to itself.

One of the largest involves certain differences between a nineteenth and a twentieth-century perception and enjoyment of the play. A modern spectator may still find Parliament a charming combination of music, spectacle and broad, satirical humour, but he is not likely to find it the same exhilaratingly topical work that the first spectators did. As suggested by Robert Lawrence's observation that the reviews were 'unanimous in recording the "roars of laughter" with which the audience recognized the principal political leaders parodied in words, appearance and action,'5 much of the original spectators' delight came from seeing the English face of Pinafore transformed into a striking mirror of themselves and their immediate manners, political concerns, and public personages. However, where Fuller's audience saw the familiar faces of their own public servants slyly peeking through Fuller's characters, we tend to see only the faces of generalized political types or historical giants. Where the original audience relished the finer points of Fullers attack on contemporary political issues, we tend to enjoy the broader jibes where our experiences and those of a century ago are most comparable. In short, a modern audience viewing the same characters and issues through the lens of a different time and perspective may still see a reflection of themselves in Fuller's mirror - but it is a more oblique, diffuse image shaped by a different set of emotions and responses.

One of the first big decisions a director faces, then, is that of how to deal with this double focus. Does one serve Fuller better by being faithful to the text, even if it does not work in the way it once did, or by being faithful to the original spirit of uproarious topical humour, even if it means substantially updating the text?

Like the Fort Erie group, we found ourselves trying to strike a delicate balance between the alternatives. And, as perhaps could be expected, we struck a slightly different balance: the Fort Erie production took a more liberal approach to characterization. While we retained all the characters as written (save the ones in the epilogue), they experimented with updating some of the minor or less historically recognizable characters; for instance, some of the MPs were given familiar faces, and Mrs Butterbun became something of a separatiste. However, we both drew the line at interfering with Fuller's major historical figures, and probably for the same reason: the original characterizations are too much a part of the play's fabric to be tampered with.

Fuller's portraits of Captain MacA and MacDeadeye in particular were based on a very keen awareness of the original models' public images. In fact, a contemporary quotation from Grip supports Fuller's suggestion that the public were quicker to forgive the charming, personable old chief for being a rascal, than the honest, hard-working Scot for being dour, graceless, and not 'more civil when ... skipper':


He [Mackenzie] was sitting, you remember, like a clerk slaving, I may say, as he would always do, when it would have been better for the party had he been seeing people and wining, dining and poking bartenders in the ribs, jovially like John A. But he never could be taught these little arts...6

Fuller's pompous, overbearing Sir Samuel may have been a less just portrait of Tilley, who had a personal reputation for being a 'quiet, shrewd decent fellow.'7 However, as chief engineer of the NP, Macdonald's key hope for renewed economic - and political - prosperity, Sillery was indeed a political figure of such power and sway in the party that his supercilious attitude probably seemed satirically credible to an audience. Nor, as a consequence of his prominence, would Tilley have had to be a parliamentary lion to be associated in the public mind with much 'dull prosing' about a policy rather slow to live up to its illustrious creator's high opinion of it.

To sum up, Fuller's characters, as they exist and interact, are wholly convincing as Tilley, Macdonald, and Mackenzie. They would not be so as the current prime minister, finance minister and leader of the opposition. In fact, to give the latter trio the same perceptive treatment Fuller gives his, one would virtually have to write Fuller himself out of recognition.

Similarly, there are limits to how far one can tamper with the issues of the piece - and those limits for both companies were largely determined by the limits each had set on updating characterization. Fort Erie's decision to update the minor characters left them with more leeway in the matter.

Nonetheless, we found some room for flexibility by taking a page from the McDowell Company's own book. Perhaps discovering that interest in the Ottawa political scene of 1880 diminished the further the tour moved from the capital, the company frequently injected 'allusions to local matters like civic improvement ... political appointments and "causes c6l&res" 8 into the tour performances, thus restoring a touch of topical spice. For those of us even more irrevocably distanced by time from the Ottawa of 1880, it seemed equally feasible to allow minor additions or alterations for the purposes of sharpening certain parallels, or introducing a little 'local' humour. Thus it was that references to 30 percent Canadian quotas and 6-and-5 per cent formulas came up during Sam and Sir Samuel's discussion on the duties of a civil servant. Thus too, we were able to make the NP a closer echo of the NEP by changing Sam's pipe to hair oil, consequently making him a 'martyr' to the oil rather than tobacco industry.

However, with issues as with characterizations, we again felt that any full-scale attempt to restore topicality to the play was more likely to undermine its integrity than anything the double focus could do. Consequently, we were inclined in most instances simply to accept the reality of the double focus and trust the text to carry itself even on those altered terms. Aside from the minor alterations mentioned, the only real exceptions we made to this policy were in cases where the double focus really did seem to be working badly against the text. There were a couple of instances of this.

The first was a case of a running gag going flat because the turn of phrase it had relied on had become obsolete; in the 'Carefully on Tiptoe Stealing' number, it took most of us several readings to realize that the whole business of the 'hum' coupled with the flashing of a 'bug' silhouette was meant to imply that the whole business was a complete 'humbug.' Lacking both a magic lantern and the time to stop and explain the joke, we quietly replaced the 'hums' and the 'bugs' with something less cryptic. Our changes are shown in upper case:

H.M.S. Parliament                              H.M.S. Parliament (revised)'9


ALL Carefully on tiptoe stalking
Moving gently as we may;
While Sir Samuel is talking
We will softly steal away.
[Trombone note]
[Alarmed]
Goodness me!
I hear them come;
MACD Silent be,
It was the 'Hum.'
[Here the cover of a magic
lantern, arranged at the
wings or in front, so as to
throw the shadow of a large
'bug'on the back scene is
withdrawn. The figure of the
'bug'is seen at back]




ALL Yes, yes; it was the 'hum.'
CAPT They're right, it is a 'hum.'
[Pointing to 'bug']
ALL Call a sleigh - the fare's a
quarter.
SAM [Feeling pockets] Yes, but
who'll defray the fare?
ALL For a clergyman is ready
To unite the happy pair
[Trombone note]
Goodness me,
I hear them come.
MACD Silent be;
Again that 'Hum.'
ALL Again, it was that Hum.'
CAPT They're right, it is a hum.
[Shadow as before.
Uncovering] Hold!




ALLCarefully on tiptoe stalking
Moving gently as we may;
While Sir Samuel is talking
We will softly steal away.
[ Trombone note]
[Alarmed]
WHAT WAS
THAT? WHAT CAN IT BE?

MACD IT'S THE MEMBERS
IN DEBATE.
CUT








ALL THE MEMBERS IN
DEBATE.
CAPT I'LL GIVE THEM A
DEBATE.
ALL Call the sleigh - the fare's a
quarter.
SAM [Feeling pockets] Yet, but
who'll defray the fare?
ALL For a clergyman is ready
To unite the happy pair.
[Trombone note]
WHAT WAS THAT?
WHAT CAN IT BE?
MACD THEY'RE DEBATING
THE N.P.
ALL DEBATE THE GREAT N.P.
CAPT THEY THINK THEY'RE
FOOLING ME!
[ Uncovering]
Hold!

ANG Dearest papa, do not be angry,
we only came out to listen to
the'Hum.'
CAPT The'Hum'?
ANG Yes, papa, the 'Hum' you
know, of the NP. It is to be
heard plainly in the evening
at this time of year.




CAPT [In a passion] Oh, this is too
thin - blow the 'Hum' and
the NP too!
MACD Hear! Hear! blow the NP.
ANG Dearest papa, do not be angry,
we only came out to listen to
the CHEERS.
CAPT THE CHEERS?
ANG THE CHEERS OF THE
PUBLIC FOR THE NP.
THEY CAN BE HEARD
VERY PLAINLY IN THE
EVENING AT THIS
TIME OF THE YEAR -
WHEN THE WIND BLOWS IN FROM THE
WEST.
CAPT [In a passion] Oh this is too
thin - blow the PUBLIC and
the NP too!
MACD Hear! Hear! blow the NP.

The second and more controversial revision involved a scene creating an effect quite contrary to the one the author had intended. When Fuller wrote his epilogue, he was probably aiming for the same sort of effect Gilbert and Sullivan did with their final chorus of 'For He is an Englishman': a rousing, patriotic, if slightly tongue-in-cheek, finish which would reaffirm the basic soundness of the system after an evening of satirizing its flaws. In having a personified Canada raise her voice with the rest of the cast to swear an undying affection and loyalty to 'mother' Britannia, Fuller was confidently appealing to a common nineteenth- century Canadian sentiment: that, however else our political, racial, or geographical differences may divide us as people, we were all united as Canadians in our loyalty to the British Crown.

Unfortunately, in the multi-cultural Canada of today, where the mosaic has largely replaced the Empire as an ideal, Fuller's ending does not work nearly as well as the Pinafore's choral finale still does. Despite some humourous 'mother- daughter' squabbling, the length and strength of Fuller's pro-British sentiments are more calculated to alienate than to unify a modern audience.

Our own feeling was that, while Fuller's words themselves were no longer capable of bearing the weight of his sentiments, the more concise and evocative media of music and spectacle might be. Hence, the only element of Fuller's epilogue that we actually used in production was its final visual image; on the closing chords of the operetta, the entire cast turned and knelt in a tableau to a portrait of Victoria and two large flags, Union Jack and Red Ensign, at the top of the set. We also tried to recapture something of the uplifting, patriotic spirit Fuller originally intended, by having the cast join hands and sing 'The Maple Leaf Forever' at the curtain call. Although'The Maple Leaf, itself a product of the same period, is also resplendent with the same variety of pro-British sentiment, we hoped that the nostalgia engendered by the old song as well as the liveliness of its music would make it a more palatable alternative to Fuller's rhetoric. Even we, however, were surprised by the number of audience members who spontaneously joined in and sang along with the cast; in fact, from the second night on, the conductor simply turned to the audience and directed them in the singing of the final refrain.

This discussion of the relationship between music and text brings us in turn to the second major problem confronting a modern director of Parliament:the difficulty of trying to mesh the Fuller text with the Sullivan Pinafore score. It must be mentioned from the start that Fuller probably never intended Parliament to be a musical mirror image of Pinafore. Certainly, he does not hesitate to cut or abridge anything from the Sullivan score which threatens to hinder the onward sweep and energy of his own text. (Of the twenty-one original musical numbers contained in Pinafore, three are cut outright or replaced with other numbers, and twelve, including the first and second act finales, are somewhat trimmed.) This being the case, it can be argued with some justification that the swifter dramatic flow facilitated by Fuller's condensation of the Sullivan score is an essential part of the operetta's overall effect. Even within these bounds, however, a number of Fuller's cuts and alterations are clearly problematical, leaving, as they do, the sung portions of the text plagued by all manner of puzzling additions, omissions, and outright inconsistencies. These include:


1 The omission of lines or verses at points critical to the flow of the music line. The most glaring example of this occurs in the second act, where Fuller designates one song as being an Octette, then supplies only five voice lines. However, he is also guilty of creating awkward gaps in the 'I am Sir Samuel Sillery, "Refrain Audacious Youth,' and 'Never Mind the Why or Wherefore' numbers.

2 The addition of too many lines to accommodate the music. This occurs most noticeably in the 'Sir, you are anxious' recitations in Act 1, and the 'This Very Night' number in Act II.

3 The omission of any explanation as to how to handle the fairly important contralto line ordinarily assigned to Cousin Hebe, the ringleader of Sir Joseph's sisters, cousins and aunts. For, while there is no corresponding character in Fuller's operetta, the music assigned to her must be sung throughout if the musical balance of the Sullivan score is to be retained.

4 An apparent contradiction between the role that Fuller's 'full chorus,' and the women's chorus, in particular, were to play onstage, and that assigned to them by Gilbert and Sullivan. For instance, both the frontispiece of the Plant-Wagner edition of the play, and the 'dramatis personae' list itself, seem to indicate that the women were cast as parliamentary pages, the rest of the chorus as 'members, etc,' and Sir Samuel's 'little ring of senators and members' as a separate group of men in drag. However, the music line of the Sullivan score virtually demands that these same 'senators and members' be played by a female chorus.

5 The puzzling omission, towards the end of the operetta, of part of the Sullivan score in favour of two relatively obscure airs: 'The Sea, the Sea, the Open Sea' and 'My Love He Is a Sailor Boy.'

These strange lapses tend to leave one asking a number of questions about the text as it stands. However, whether Fuller based his libretto on one of the corrupt pirated versions of Pinafore, deliberately simplified the score to suit the company's conditions and abilities, or gave the publishers a simplified version of the production book, the modern director must come to his own terms with the discrepancies between the Sullivan score and the Fuller text.

The tendency of the Fort Erie Parliament was apparently towards simplification; what could not be comfortably handled by eight voices or readily found in the Pinafore text was simply dropped. The tendency of the Toronto production, on the other hand, was towards greater complexity and expansion, given both a large cast and a longer preparation time.

It was our belief that Parliament's overall appeal today was more likely to be dependent on the operetta's musical element than it was in 1880 when the burlesque's topical humour was at its brightest and best. Consequently, when forced to choose between adapting the music to fit the text, or the text to fit the music we were more inclined to adapt the text.

This was especially true in instances where there were simply not enough words to fill out the music. In some of these cases, as in the'l am Sir Samuel Sillery' and 'Never Mind the Why and Wherefore' numbers, adaptation simply amounted to bridging the more serious breaks in the music line with extra sentences or verses in keeping with the spirit of the operetta. A quick comparison of the original Pinafore text with that of Parliament shows how and where these revisions have been made in both pieces (again, our changes are shown in the upper case):

1 'Never Mind the Why and Wherefore" 10
H.M.S. Pinafore
          H.M.S. Parliament (revised)


TRIO
FIRST LORD, CAPTAIN and JOSEPHINE CAPT Never mind the why and wherefore,
Love can level ranks, and therefore,
Though his lordship's station's mighty,
Though stupendous be his

TRIO
CAPT Never mind the why and
wherefore,
Angeline consents, and
therefore,
Though Sir Samuel's fond of
prosing,
And his NP is a bore,
brain,
Though your tastes are mean
and flighty
And your fortune poor and
plain,
CAPT & Ring the merry bells on
SIR J board-ship,
Rend the air with warbling
wild,
For the union of his/my
lordship
With a humble captain's
child!
CAPT For a humble captain's
daughter -
Jos For a gallant captain's
daughter -
SIR J And a lord who rules the
water -
Jos And a tar who ploughs the
[aside] water!
ALL Let the air with joy be
laden,
Rend with songs the air
above,
For the union of a maiden
With the man who owns
her love!
SIR J Never mind the why and
wherefore,
Love can level ranks, and
therefore,
Though your nautical relation
[alluding to Capt]
In my set could scarcely
pass -
Though you occupy a station
In the lower middle class -


Though he sets the house a-dozing
Whene'er he holds the floor.


CAPT & Set the merry bells
SIR S a-ringing,
Rend the air with warbling
wild,
For the union of Sir
Samuel
With the chieftain's
lovely child.
CAPT For a chieftain's duteous
daughter;
ANG For a chieftain's simple
daughter;
SIR S For a chieftain's lovely
daughter;
ANG And a clerk not fond of water.
ALL WITH GLAD SONGS
NOW FILL THE AIR
LET THE SKIES WITH
JOY BE RIFE,
FOR THE UNION OF A
PAIR WHO WILL
DANCE AS ONE
THROUGH LIFE.
SIR S Never mind the why and
wherefore,
Angeline consents, and
therefore,
Though her intellect's but
slender,
And I fear she's frivilous,
Yet I think she's young and
tender,
And I might have done much
wuss. Set the merry bells,
etc.


CAPT & Ring the merry bells on
SIR J board-ship,
Rend the air with warbling
wild,
For the union of my/his
lordship
With a humble captain's
child!
CAPT For a humble captain's
daughter -
Jos For a gallant captain's
daughter -
SIR j And a lord who rules the
water -
Jos And a tar who ploughs the
[aside] water!
ALL Let the air with joy be
laden,
Rend with songs the air
above,
For the union of a maiden
With the man who owns
her love!
Jos Never mind the why and
wherefore,
Love can level ranks, and
therefore
I admit the jurisdiction;
Ably have you played your
part;
You have carried firm
conviction
To my hesitating heart.
CAPT & Ring the merry bells on
SIR J board-ship,
Rend the air with warbling
wild',
For the union of my/his
lordship


BOTH SET THE MERRY BELLS
CAPT & A-RINGING
SIR S REND THE AIR WITH
WARBLING WILD
FOR THE UNION OF SIR
SAMUEL
WITH THE CHIEFTAIN'S
LOVELY CHILD.
CAPT FOR A CHIEFTAIN'S
DUTEOUS DAUGHTER
ANG FOR A CHIEFTAIN'S
SIMPLE DAUGHTER
SIR S FOR A CHIEFTAIN'S
LOVELY DAUGHTER
ANG AND A CLERK NOT
[aside] FOND OF WATER.
ALL WITH GLAD SONGS
NOW FILL THE AIR
LET THE SKIES WITH
JOY BE RIFE
FOR THE UNION OF
A PAIR
WHO WILL DANCE AS
ONE THROUGH LIFE.
ANG Never mind the why and
wherefore,
Angeline consents, and
therefore,
Though they both are quite
mistaken,
And Sir Samuel's not the man;
To their error they'll awaken
When they see the other Sam.
BOTH Set the merry bells, etc.
CAPT & SET THE MERRY BELLS
SIR S A-RINGING
REND THE AIR WITH
WARBLING WILD
FOR THE UNION OF
SIR SAMUEL


Though Fuller causes some minor confusion by writing in three voice-parts, then designating the choruses between the verses to be sung by 'Both' (one suspects his acutal designations mirrored Gilbert's), the real problem lies in the ambiguous nature of Fuller's 'etc's.' If, as Wagner and Plant suggest in their edition, Fuller's 'etc's' cover only already repeated material, then one still faces the problem of verse cuts which wreak havoc with Sullivan's delicate counterpoint, particularly in the closin gsection of the song. And, unfortunately, even if Fuller did, as seems likely, work out a written or improvised alternative to an otherwise graceless ending, that too has been lost beneath the 'etc's.' In either case, the best alternative seemed to be the creation of a verse true to both the 'dancing' theme of the operetta, and the playful dramatic irony of the song; the 'pair who will dance through life as one' ('in one delicious Boston,' as Angelina would put it) is of course, Angelina and Snifter, not as Captain McA and his self-congratulatory finance minister think, Angelina and Sillery.


2 '1 am Sir Samuel Sillery'
NOTE: ALL sung by 'Ministers' in original
H.M.S. Pinafore


SONG - SIR JOSEPH
I am the monarch of the sea,
The ruler of the Queen's
Navee,
Whose praise Great Britain
loudly chants.
HEBE And we are his sisters, and
his cousins, and his aunts!


REL & And they/we are his sisters,
SAILORS and his cousins, and
his aunts!
SIR j When at anchor here I ride,
My bosom swells with
pride,
And I snap my fingers at a
foeman's taunts;
HEBE And so do his sisters, and
his cousins, and his aunts!
ALL And so do his sisters, and his,
cousins, and his aunts!
SIR j But when the breezes blow,
I generally go below,
And seek the seclusion that a
cabin grants;
HEBE And so do his sisters, and
his cousins, and his aunts!
ALL And so do his sisters, and his
cousins, and his aunts!
His sisters and his
cousins,
Whom he reckons up by
dozens,
And his aunts!




SONG - SIR SAMUEL
I'm Sir Samuel Silleree,
Inventor of the great NP,
Whose praise Canadians loudly sing.


MINis- AND WE ARE THE
TER MINISTERS
WHO FORM HIS
LITTLE RING.
ALL And we are the ministers who
who form his little ring.
[Repeat]
SIR S When in Council I preside,
My bosom swells with
pride,
For I see prices rising
for almost everything.
MINIS- AND SO DOTHE
TER MINISTERS, ETC.
ALL And so do the Ministers
who form his little ring.
SIR S But if wages don't rise too,
I fear I shall look quite blue,
And seek the seclusion which
private life will bring.
MINIS- AND SO WILL THE
TER MINISTERS, ETC.
ALL And so will the Ministers
who form his little ring.
THE MINISTERS AND
SENATORS WHO
FORM THE VERY 'IN'
CORE OF HIS RING!

As in the case of 'Why and Wherefore,' Fuller's dropping of the final refrain present in the Gilbert and Sulivan piece tends to make for a rather abrupt musical ending. (Hence the extra lines added above.) However, the fact that a further refrain of the song, repeated many pages later, has an ,etc., etc.' tacked onto the same abrupt ending suggests that there may have been more to the song than now meets the eye. The other excisions in the text can be traced to a quite different factor: the absence of any Hebe character to sing the corresponding lines. In our production, the dropped lines were assigned to a character named Minister, with ALL - ministers, members, and senators alike - chiming in on the repeat.

A similar policy of creating appropriate new text to fill in musical gaps was also employed in regard to the Octette, and 'Refrain Audacious Youth' numbers. However, the greater complexity of both cases required additional rearrangements of score and text as well.

The greatest difficulty presented by the first piece, as previously mentioned, is that, while Fuller clearly designates it as being an'Octett and Chorus,' he writes verses for only five voices; no indication is given of who the extra voices are, let alone what they or the similarly neglected chorus are supposed to sing. A second more minor problem is presented by the occasional inconsistency of Fuller's rhyme scheme. In the original Pinafore arrangement, the evenness of metre and rhyme Gilbert establishes in the other verses all comes together in the final ensemble in a stunning finale of phonic unison within eight-part musical harmony. While the rhyme pattern and metre Fuller sets up in the majority of the verses would seem to encourage the same effect, the rhyme patterns of two of the verses, MacDeadeye's and Sir Samuel's, are somewhat irregular. How we came to grips with both problems can be demonstrated as follows:


H.M.S. Pinafore


OCTETTE
(1) RALPH Farewell, my own,
Light of my life, farewell!
For crime unknown
I go to a dungeon cell.
(2) jos I will atone.
In the meantime farewell!
And all alone
Rejoice in your dungeon cell!


H.M.S. Parliament (revised)


OCTETT AND CHORUS
(a) (1) CLERK Farewell, my own (a)
An-ge-li-na, farewell; (b)
(b)
(a) This is, I own, (a)
An extremely awkward
(b) sell. (b)
(a) (2) ANG Oh, were it known (a)
Who it was pa did
(b) tell, (b)
(a) He should atone (a)
To me for this horrid
(b) sell. (b)


(3) SIR j A bone, a bone (a)
I'll pick with this
sailor fell; (b)
Let him be shown (a)
At once to his dungeon
cell. (b)


(4) BOATSWAIN, (5) DICK DEADEYE,
(6) HEBE, and (7) CARPENTER
He'll hear no tone (a)
Of the maiden he loves
so well! (b)
No telephone (a)
Communicates with his
cell. (b)


(8) BUT
[mysteriously] But when is known (a)
The secret I have to
tell, (b)
Wide will be thrown (a)
The door of his dungeon
cell. (b)
ALL
[Chorus & other] For crime
unknown (a)
He goes to a dungeon
cell! (b)


(3) SIR s The sack, the sack, (c)
I'll give to this clerk
so fell, (b)
And he'll confess (d)
That it is indeed
a sell.(b)
(4) MACDIf he gets the sack, (c)
And loses his love as
well, (b)
It will, in jac', (c)
Be a terribly awkward
sell. (b)
(5) CLERK, (6) BEN, (4) MAcD,
(7) MINISTER
HE'LL HEAR NO
TONE (a)
OF THE MAIDEN HE
LOVES SOWELL (b)
GIVEN THE COST OF
PHONES (a)
OR OF STAMPS TO
SEND MAIL. (b)
(8) BUTT But, when is known (a)
The secret I have to
tell, (b)
All will be thrown (a)
On their beam ends by the
sell. (b)


FINAL ENSEMBLE
CLERK AND ANG AS WRITTEN
SIR S [Revised]
THE SACK I OWN (a)
I'LL GIVE TO THIS
CLERK SO FELL (b)
AND THEN HE'LL
OWN (a)
THAT IT IS INDEED
A SELL. (b)
MACD (Revised]
WHEN HE'S
> ALONE, - (a)


HE LOSES HIS LOVE AS
WELL - (b)
IT WILL BE KNOWN (a)
IT'S A TERRIBLY
AWKWARD SELL. (b)
ALL
[Chorus & Others] GIVEN THE
COST OF PHONES (a)
AND THAT OF STAMPS
FOR MAIL. (b)

As can be seen, Fuller has slipped in an extra verse, not in the original piece, for MacDeadeye, and entirely ignored the little quartet; perhaps the missing voices were simply meant to share MacDeadeye's verse with him. In our arrangement, however, we essentially had MacDeadeye do his verse to Sir Joseph's/Samuel's voice line, and a quartet, composed of Ben Burr, MacDeadeye, Clerk and Minister, sing a new verse (MacDeadeye and Sam returned to their own lines in the final ensemble, the chorus picking up the slack). The quartet also helped solve the rhyme pattern problem by pushing the three extra voice lines into the dominant rhyme scheme. From there it was an easy step to regularize the rhymes of the two odd verses to create phonic uniformity in the final ensemble.

In the case of the 'Refrain Audacious Youth' number, Fuller's somewhat idiosyncratic cuts and re-arrangements cause problems of dramatic as well as musical balance. These can perhaps be shown best by juxtaposing Pinafore's arrangement of the scene with Fuller's:


DUET - JOS. AND RALPH
JOS Refrain, audacious tar,
[repeated] Your suit from pressing,
Remember what you are,
And whom addressing!
[Aside] I'd laugh my rank to scorn
In union holy,
Were he more highly bom
Or I more lowly!


DUETT - CLERK AND ANG.
ANG Refrain, audacious youth,
You're too assuming,
And on my condescension
Are presuming.
You are a humble clerk
Who seals the letters,
And I the very best
Of all your betters.
[Aside] If cruel fate, my love
Did not look cross on,
We'd glide through life
in one
Delicious 'Boston.'


RALPH Proud lady, have your way, SAM
Unfeeling beauty!
You speak and I obey,
It is my duty!
I am the lowliest tar
That sails the water,
And you, proud maiden, are
My captain's daughter!
[Aside] My heart with anguish torn [Aside]
Bows down before her,
She laughs my love to scorn,
Yet I adore her!
[Repeat refrain, ensemble,
then exit Jos. into cabin]
RALPH [Recit]
Can I survive this over
bearing
Or live a life of mad
despairing,
My proffered love despised,
rejected? ,
No, no, it's not to be
expected!
[Calling offl
Messmates, ahoy!
Come here! Come here!
[Enters Sailor, Hebe, and
Relatives]


Proud lady, cease; refrain
My hopes to crumble;
I know that, like 'Uriah
Heep,' I'm 'umble;
But still, like him, I love
My master's daughter,
Although I'm quite aware I didn't oughter.
[Exit Ang] Despite the haughty way The lady snubs me, I have a strong suspicion That she loves me.


CUT


CUT


I'll put it to the test -
[Calling off]


My friends, my friends, Come here, come here!
[Enter Members, Clerks,
MacDeadeye, etc.]

As can be seen, the scenes closely parallel each other until the end of Sam/Ralph's aria. At this point, however, Angelina is unceremoniously hustled offstage, Sams aside turned to purposes of revelation and decision rather than meditation, and the ensuing duet and recitative cut. Though Fuller was probably aiming, as usual, for quickness and precision of action, one feels that the odd balancing of the scene deprives it of more in terms of dramatic and musical power than it gains by way of condensation. Not only is the enchanting musical moment of the duet lost, but Sam's words of renewed hope and determination lose much of their power when set to the slow meditative music of the aside.

Our own solution was to give Sam a slightly tongue-in-cheek aside like Angelina's (Sams passion for whiskey seemed a fair match for Angelina's passion for 'Bostons'), restore the duet, and then re-set the current words of Sam's aside to the more dynamic music of the recitative. Though this required some re-arranging of Sullivan's recitative music ('test' became 'testing,' to make the task a little easier), the dynamics of the scene, especially as regards the mood shift, worked much better, revised as follows:




H.M.S. Parliment (Revised)



SAM Although I'm quite aware
I didn't oughter.
[Aside]
THE PEERLESS MAID I LOVE
UNFEELING MOCKS ME.
WERE RANK MORE CHEAPLY
WON OR WHISKEY LESS COSTLY!
[Repeat refrain, ensemble. Exit
Angelina]
[Recitative]

SAM Despite the haughty way
The lady snubs me,
I have a strong suspicion
That she loves me:
I'll put it to the testing
[Calling off]
My friends, my friends,
Come here! come here!
[Enter Members, Clerks,
MacDeadeye, etc]


As noted, the addition of extra lines or verses tended to work well in cases where there was not quite enough of Fuller's text to fill out Sullivan's music. However, a slightly different treatment was required in the two instances where Fuller supplies too much text to fit the music.

The first example of this, as previously mentioned, occurs in the form of a recitative between Mrs Butterbun and Captain McA. The fact that Fuller's text is so much longer than the corresponding Pinafore one helps indicate the problems with setting Fuller's recitative to the limited amount of music Sullivan provides for the purpose:

H.M.S. Pinafore


RECIT-BUTTERCUP and CAPT
BUT Sir, you are sad! The silent eloquence
Of yonder tear that trembles on your eyelash
Proclaims a sorrow far more deep than common;
Confide in me - fear not - I am a mother!
CAPT Yes, Little Buttercup, I'm sad and sorry -
My daughter, Josephine, the fairest flower
That ever blossomed on ancestral timber,
Is sought in marriage by Sir Joseph Porter,
Our Admiralty's first Lord, but for some reason
She does not seem to tackle kindly to it.
BUT [with emotion] Ah, poor Sir Joseph! Ah, I know to well
The anguish of a heart that loves but vainly!
But see, here comes your most attractive daughter.
I go - Farewell!
[Exit]
CAPT [looking after her] A plump and pleasing person!
[Exit]
[Enter Josephine, twining some flowers]


H.M.S. Parliament


RECIT
[Enter Butterbun]
BUTT - Sir, you seem anxious, the sad expression of your engaging countenance denotes a more than common sorrow. Here, take a doughnut.
CAPT - Thanks, Mrs Butterbun. Yes, I am anxious. The fact is that our party has of late shown signs of weakness - they've such large appetites, the public manger scarcely can contain sufficient fodder to supply them all; added to this, our great Financier, the party's backbone, has lately seemed inclined to put his back up; and so to bind more closely to my cause, I had agreed to wed him to my daughter; but sad to say, she doesn't seem to hanker after him.
BUTT - Ah! poor Sir Samuel; but no doubt a man like him, who understands all about duties will soon be able to convince your child that 'tis her duty to obey her Pa.. But see, here comes your daughter. I go. Farewell!
[Exit]
CAPT [looking after her] - Her doughnuts are delicious.
[Takes a bite.]
[Enter Angelina]



After several experiments with text and music alike, we settled on slightly trimming and reshaping some of the text to fit the existing music, while inserting the rest of the lines as brief spoken passages between the musical phrases. This way we could preserve the jokes while making the whole more singable:


NOTE: Spoken portions of the text are in upper case


H.M.S. Parliament (Revised)




BUTTERBUN Sir, you are sad! The silent eloquence of yonder tear that trembles on your eyelash proclaims a sorrow far more deep than common. Confide in me. Here, please have a doughnut.
CAPTAIN Yes, Mrs. Butterbun, I'm sad and sorry.
THE FACT IS THAT OUR PARTY OF LATE HAS SHOWN SIGNS OF WEAKNESS - THEY'VE SUCH LARGE APPETITES THE PUBLIC
MANGER SCARCELY CAN CONTAIN SUFFICIENT FODDER TO SUPPLY THEM ALL; ADDED TO THIS, OUR GREAT FINANCIER, THE PARTY'S BACKBONE, HAS LATELY SEEMED INCLINED TO PUT HIS BACK UP: AND SO TO BIND HIM MORE CLOSELY TO
MY CAUSE -
My daughter Angelina, the fairest flower that ever blossomed on this sorry timber, I've sought to marry to Sir Samuel Sillery, that very same financier. But, for some reason, she does not seem to tackle kindly to it.
BUTTERBUN Ah, poor Sir John. Ah, I know too well, the anguish caused by those opposed to duty.
BUT NO DOUBT A MAN LIKE SIR SAMUEL WHO UNDERSTANDS ALL ABOUT DUTIES WILL SOON BE ABLE TO CONVINCE YOUR CHILD THAT'TIS HER DUTY TO OBEY HER PA.
But see, here comes your most attractive daughter. I go - Farewell.
CAPTAIN Her doughnuts are delicious.


A similar compromise had to be reached between the integrity of Fuller's text and the integrity of Sullivan's music in the 'This Very Night' number. The problem caused by Fuller's insertion of extra lines is illustrated in the following.


H.M.S. Pinafore


Jos [Soprano] This very night,
HEBE [Alto] With bated breath
RALPH [Tenor] And muffled oar -


Jos [Soprano] Without a light,
HEBE [Alto] As still as death,
RALPH [Tenor] We'll steal ashore jos [Soprano] A Clergyman
RALPH [Tenor] Shall make us one


H.M.S. Parliament


ANG [Soprano] This very night,
sAm [Tenor] At half-past eight,
TOM BLACK [Baritone] just while the
House
BEN BURR [Bass] Is in debate,
sAm [Tenor] From the gallery-'
ANG [Soprano] I soft will steal.*
sAm [Tenor] To 'Alban's' Church
ANG [Soprano] We swift will go,


BOAT [Baritone] At half-past ten, jos [Soprano] And then we can RALPH [Tenor] Return, for none BOAT [Baritone] Can part them then! ALL This very night, etc.


TOM BLACK [Baritone] A clergyman, BEN BURR [Bass] For woe or weal, ANG [Soprano] Will make us one; SAM [Tenor] And then we can ANG [Soprano] Return, for none SAM[ Tenor] Can part us then. ALL This very night, etc.

As can be seen, the opening section of the original Gilbert and Sullivan arrangement evenly divides twelve phrases among four voices in neatly descending order. Fuller calls for fourteen phrases divided rather haphazardly among five voices. Again, unless Fuller wrote his own recitative music, his arrangement of this passage is very odd. There seems no consistent order in the voice lines or rhyme patterns, and no particular need for two extra lines, one of them ('From the gallery') possessing an irregular metre.

In dealing with the problem, we returned to some extent to the approach we had taken with the Octette. As long as Fuller's text could be clearly heard, as it was in the solo lines, we were inclined to let it stand as written; the existing music was therefore re-arranged in the opening section to accommodate Fuller's changes. However, once we got into the polyphonic section (All) where rhythms and harmonies took precedence over words) the two extra lines (marked by an asterisk) were quietly dropped in the interests of musical precision and intricacy.

Musical concerns also tended to influence our decisions about the Hebe line and the female chorus. In the case of the former, we simply split the line between Mrs Butterbun and one of the chorus altos who was subsequently referred to as 'Minister: the leader of the chief financier's little ring.' Minister could be relied on to take over the line whenever Butterbun was offstage, could not sing the part in character (eg, 'I am Sir Samuel Sillery'), or when the music called for both Buttercup and Hebe to be singing at the same time.

The woman's chorus, made up to look like old bearded men, were designated to be the senators and ministers of Sir Samuel's 'little ring.' As such, they made their entrances, both musically and physically, at the same points as Sir Joseph's 'sisters, cousins and aunts' in Pinafore. While this solution was more musically viable, it also sacrificed surprisingly little of the original comic effect. Audiences seemed to find women sporting beards almost as good a visual joke as men sporting skirts.

It probably would have been easier simply to have cut the two non-Sullivan pieces in favour of the excised Sullivan portions. ('The Sea,'in particular, proved to be a little long in performance.) However, our general policy was to respect Fuller's cuts or alterations where they were clear and non-problematical11 - and he had obviously intended both pieces to be in the score. It took some time to trace them down, but we eventually obtained a photocopy of the original 1830 copy of 'The Sea'(S. Neukomn) from the Boston Public Library, and discovered a simple folk version of 'My Love He is a Sailor Boy' in the collection Yours For a Song (edjanet E. Tobitt), at the Metropolitan Toronto Library. (The latter, in particular, took some re-arranging before we could use it for piano, solo voice, and chorus.)

To sum up, our 1983 production of H.M.S. Parliament differed in a number of important respects from the original 1880 production.

Technically, the first production was impressively lavish. So much so that the Gazette of 17 February, 1880, noted:


The scenery and stage setting were particularly fine; indeed we have never seen anything to equal in point of realism the two scenes, first the library of the House, and secondly, the exterior of the Parliament buildings by moonlight and as the curtain rose on each the hearty applause testifies to the impression the artists' work made on the audience.12

Ours was extremely spartan. The stage setting consisted of a large, open floor space and built-up lecture platform (complete with red ensign, Union Jack, portrait of Victoria, and a period chair) at one end of West Hall, University College. As there were only two doors, one at either end of the hall, many of the exits and entrances had to be made down the center aisle through the audience. (This also prompted our actors to make some interesting gallops through the bowels of the building to get from one door to the other.) While the 'live' acoustics were wonderful for singing, our technical versatility as regards magic lanterns, 'moonlight' and exterior scenes, was almost non-existent. (The disapperance of Sam's writing lectern and the replacement of the formal chair with a garden chair were about as far as we got with the grounds of the Parliament buildings by moonlight.) Our scenery was essentially the natural nineteenth-century decor of the hall; our orchestra, a single grand piano.

The original production relied strongly on topical satire; ours) despite a few topical barbs, relied more on the play's strong undercurrents of general humour. As we discovered in performance, the sprightly young lovers, Sam and Angelina, remain as charming and witty a couple as ever despite the 'Boston' being a century out of date. Similarly, an audience does not have to know Tilley well to be able to appreciate Sillery as a rich comic character in his own right, particularly in his interactions with that other great type of the scheming politician, Captain McA. The same might also be said for the more historically obscure characters of Butterbun, Ben Burr and Tom Black; an historian's knowledge of who they were is not essential to an enjoyment of what they are onstage.

The original Parliament, functioning more as a political burlesque, was probably a great deal freer and more improvisational in its treatment of Sullivan's score. Ours, functioning largely as an operetta, drew more strongly on the lasting power of Sullivan's music and was hence more faithful to the Pinafore score in all its harmonic complexity.

What both productions shared in common, however, was a warm reception from full houses, as Fuller's clever characterizations and sprightly wit once more combined with Sullivan's enchanting music to charm audiences. Given this success, one only hopes that H.M.S. Parliament does not have to wait another century for its next revival.

Notes

1 ANTON WAGNER and RICHARD PLANT (eds), Canada's Lost Plays, Vol. 1: The Nineteenth Century Toronto: CTR Publications, 1978 p 159. Unless acknowledged otherwise, all short quotations from The Parliament are quoted from this edition.
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2 The 'National Policy' or 'Great N.P.' as Parliament calls it, was a policy of high tariffs on foreign goods implemented by Samuel Tilley when the Macdonald government was returned to power in 1878. While designed to protect and encourage home markets, the NP had the effect of raising costs for the Canadian consumer.
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3 Fuller's romantic characters have a much sharper comic edge than Gilbert's, at least in part, one suspects, because they were written with Mr and Mrs McDowell's considerable comic talents in mind. Angelina is a pert little social butterfly, who dislikes poverty on ANY terms, and Sam, the 'model' civil servant, is a genial tippler who relies more on cheek than hard work to advance his career. The Parliament is also a much less romantic work in other respects. Gilbert's two other romantic interests are simply written out. There is no Hebe counterpart to claim Sir Samuel, and relations between Captain McA and monopolist Butterbun are of strictly satirical interest.
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4 Both KATHLEEN FRASER and ROBERT LAWRENCE have written more extensively on the original production of Parliament and its subsequent tour. Lawrence's articles include 'H.M.S. Parliament: Dramatic History,' CTR (Summer, 1978) and 'Eugene McDowell and the Canadian Theatre,' Dalhousie Review (Summer, 1978). Fraser's contributions on the history of the McDowell Theatre Company include an MA thesis (Western Ontario, 1978) and an article in Theatre History in Canada (Spring, 1980). Also useful is the Plant-Wagner introduction to Canada's Lost Plays, Vol. 1.
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5 ROBERT G. LAWRENCE 'H.M.S. Parliament: Dramatic History,' Canadian Theatre Review (Summer 1978) p 44
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6 P.B. WAITE, Canada, 1874-1896: Arduous Destiny Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1971
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7 Ibid, p 95
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8 ROBERT LAWRENCE, 'H.M.S. Parliament: Dramatic History,' CTR (Summer 1978) p 44
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9 Though the majority of the textual revisions are mine, the credit for these revised lyrics and another set mentioned further on in the footnotes must go to Jenny Simonsen, who also played Mrs Butterbun. All musical revisions and rearrangements mentioned in this paper are credited to our musical director, Barry Waterlow. It should also be mentioned that with the exception of this passage, all other lengthy Parliament quotations used to illustrate revisions or points of comparison with Pinafore are taken from an original 1880 copy in the University of Alberta library.
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10 All quotations from Pinafore are taken from Martyn Green's Treasury of Gilbert and Sullivan.
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11 Outside of the previously discussed epilogue, there was one other notable exception to this rule: the re-instatement of the lovely tenor ballad, 'Maiden Fair to See'. However, as Sam had already sung of his love for Angelina in the scene immediately preceding the ballad, we turned the latter into a love song to Sam's second great love in life: his whiskey. The lyrics, composed by Jenny Simonsen, are as follows:
SAM A: Bottle fair to see/ A pearl of brewery/ A flask of golden nectar/ For whom a thirsty clerk/
May well neglect his work
And fool the old inspector.
MEN: And fool the old inspector
SAM : A drinker on the sly/ May even turn to rye/ Mixed with a little water/ And as he lifts his glass/ You'll hear him sigh 'Alas'/ He loves his chieftain's daughter.
MEN: He loves his chieftain's daughter.
SAM: With poverty my fate, to drink I'll have to wait/ Till someone else is buying/ Yet still I hope to rise in Angelina's eyes/ For whom my heart is sighing.
MEN: For whom his heart is sighing.
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12 ANTON WAGNER and RICHARD PLANT, Canada's Lost Plays. Vol. 1: The Nineteenth Century Toronto: CTR Publications, 1978 p 13
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