On 31 March 1951 Bernard Manning wrote an article in the Daily News stating 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 the Society was formed.
Bernard Manning trained at the Guildhall School of Music in London and served in the London Scottish Regiment during the First World War. After the war he joined the famous D’Oyly Carte Opera company and toured with them. In 1925 he joined the JC Williamson Company in Australia playing many principal roles such as the Mikado, Dick Deadeye and the Pirate King.
In 1927 he visited Perth with the Company and on this visit he met Perth school biology teacher, Mildred Le Souef, who would be known to many old scholars of Wesley College. They married in1951 when Bernard retired and settled in Perth. he formed the Society Shortly after, and played an active role in its success for the next 10 years. Manning died on 5 May 1961.
The first production of the G&S Society of WA was H.M.S. Pinafore held at the Assembly Hall from April 30 to May 9, 1953. From that time onwards the Society has presented annual productions of Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire and other musical theatre entertainments in Western Australia.
In 1983, G&S WA member Arnold Bullock bequeathed a large portion of his estate to the Society, in his words, “to give them a home”. Subsequently the Society set up an independent body, the Gilbert and Sullivan/A. N. Bullock Trust, to manage the funds.
Our current headquarters is the Nollamara Recreation Centre, which serves as rehearsal rooms for the Society’s annual productions and permanent choir, The Savoy Opera Chorale. It also houses the vast store of production costumes and library of scores and literature.
A former patron of the Society was Sir Charles Court, well known and respected for his patronage of the arts in Western Australia. He was succeeded by the society’s current Patron, distinguished entertainer Max Kay, who is well-known to Western Australian audiences through his fame as a theatre director, actor and entertainer.
Some renowned directors and musical directors for the Society include John Milson, Ted Bull, Tony Howes, Ian Westrip, Peter Bandy and Andrew Foote. A number of former performers have gone on to national and international careers including Aldo DiToro, Sarah Macliver, James Longmuir, Ron MacQueen, Justin Freind, Megan Sutton and Katja Webb.
Over seven decades, the Society has brought laughter and joy through the comic and melodic genius of WS Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan to generations of Western Australians.