The Hooligan: A criminally ignored play

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The Independent Culture

WS Gilbert, lyricist partner of Arthur Sullivan, was also a serious playwright: this year is the centenary of his death, and also of his last theatrical work, a one act melodrama called The Hooligan, which is being performed for the first time in a hundred years at the Buxton Gilbert and Sullivan Festival. The man behind the revival is the singer and director Barry Clark, ex-D'Oyly Carte, Scottish Opera and Carl Rosa Opera.

The Hooligan, the study of a young thug condemned to death for murder, was way ahead of its time. Nobody but Gilbert would have tackled such a contentious subject; his humanitarian and anti-capital punishment stance caused a furore at the time. It was produced just four months before his suitably dramatic death from heart failure whilst rescuing a drowning girl in the lake of his home. As well as directing the work, Clark plays the Head Warder, and his son, up-and-coming young actor and singer Matthew Clark, is the Hooligan.

Clark is on a mission to bring not only Gilbert's plays, but also the music of Gilbert and Sullivan to a wider audience: he and two associates are forming a slimmed-down touring company which will take the famous operas to small and medium-sized theatres, making them accessible to the wider British public and particularly to younger people, many of whom are unaware of their existence.

'The Hooligan', Pavilion Arts Centre, Buxton (0845 1272190) 1 August