The Cape Town Gilbert and Sullivan Society (now known as “G&S”) has been presenting the comic operas of Sir WS Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan and other musical works in and around Cape Town for over 70 years.
The organisation was founded by Eddie West in 1947 with a staging of The Yeomen of the Guard in the Cape Town City Hall. The Mayor of Cape Town at that time agreed to be appointed, ex officio, as the Honorary President of the Society, and all subsequent Mayors of Cape Town have held this position.
The organisation initially produced only the Gilbert and Sullivan canon. However, since 1995, it has alternated these works with some spectacular musicals accompanied by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra.
From G&S’s first production in the Cape Town City Hall, it subsequently performed at the Labia Theatre, the Hofmeyr Theatre, and various civic centres around greater Cape Town. In 1983, however, it was, on the strength of the quality of its previous productions, invited to bring a production to the then relatively new Baxter Theatre in Rondebosch. This was a huge success. It then moved to the ArtsCape Theatre, and in 2008 took the equally daring step, which proved to be even more successful, of staging its production of My Fair Lady in the ArtsCape Opera House.
These moves to bigger and better venues have been accompanied by increases in the standards of the productions and the organisation is now well-known for the excellence of its work.
G&S has toured four times, in 2005, 2007, 2012 and 2015, to the International Festival of Gilbert and Sullivan in the United Kingdom, winning international awards each time. After its 2007 appearance at the Festival, it was invited by the then South African High Commissioner, Dr Lindiwe Mabuza, to entertain her guests at a concert in the beautiful Herbert-Baker-designed auditorium at South Africa House in London’s Trafalgar Square. This proved to be a memorable event, which ended with an impromptu conga-line of singers and audience winding its way around the Embassy, singing “Shosholoza”!
We all acknowledge that one of the main reasons for the organisation’s success is that it provides all of its members, whether they are directors, back-stage workers, or performers, with a wonderful opportunity to achieve high standards while also having a lot of fun.
We are also all very proud of the fact that over the years, G&S has given theatrical opportunities to Capetonians from all sectors of our community, many of whom have gone on to become professional performers, designers, technicians and managers.
On the Society’s 60th Anniversary in 2007 it was presented with a Molteno Gold Medal by the Cape 300 Foundation, for its significant contribution to the arts in the Western Cape since 1947.
Written by Honorary Life Member Lorna Hansen