A brief history of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of WA
On 31 March 1951 Bernard Manning wrote an article in the 'Daily News' in which he stated his desire to start a Gilbert and Sullivan Society in Perth. The response to this article was immense. On 27 April 1951 a meeting was held and it was at this meeting the society was formed.
Bernard Manning was a Vice President of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society in Plymouth, England, trained at the Guildhall School of Music in London and joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera company. In 1925 he joined the in Australia playing many principal roles. In 1927 he visited Perth with the J.C. Williamson Company and when he retired from the company in 1951 he and his wife settled in Perth. After forming the society he played an active role in ensuring the Society's success for the next 10 years until he died on 5 May 1961. It was the goal of Bernard Manning to put on 2 productions per year. The first production was H.M.S. Pinafore held at the Assembly Hall Apr 30-May 9 1953.
In earlier years the Society received limited Government funding, notably in free use of the WA Arts Orchestra. This support was stopped in the mid 1980s. In 1983, however, the Society was informed of the death of a member, Mr Arnold Bullock, who bequeathed a large portion of his estate to the Gilbert and Sullivan Society “to give them a home” (his words). Subsequently the Society set up an independent body, the Gilbert and Sullivan/A. N. Bullock Trust, to manage the funds. This money is used to pay rent on the Society’s headquarters and general running expenses of the society.
Rather than use the A.N. Bullock funds to purchase a building, which would require ongoing expenditure for upkeep, the Society elected to use the income from the Trust to rent accommodation. Our current headquarters is the Nollamara Recreation Centre, leased from the City of Stirling. This premises serves as a rehearsal and meeting venue as well as storage for costumes and library.
In 1992 a permanent choir was formed to help promote the Society in WA and give performers opportunities outside the main seasons. The Savoy Singers was established and has now reformed as the Savoy Opera Chorale which, it is hoped, will increase public awareness of our presence and our role in the public entertainment world of this State.
When the costs of using His Majesty’s Theatre proved to exceed the potential income the Society needed another venue for its major public performances. In 1993 we moved to The Playhouse in Pier St, central Perth. This suited our needs very well but unfortunately The Playhouse closed its doors at the end of 2010. At the time of writing we have decided to stage our 2011 production at the Octagon Theatre, situated at the University of Western Australia.
Our current Patron, Max Kay, is a West Australian Scotsman of significant gifts and fame as a theatre director, actor and entertainer. He is well known in these areas here in Western Australia, Australia and internationally. His experience and advice is of immense value to the Society in Western Australia. Mr Kay works tirelessly for the arts in his capacity as a member of the Perth Theatre Trust. We are grateful for his patronage as we were for that of his predecessor, the late Sir Charles Court.