CAOS celebrates 100 years

Chichester’s CAOS Musical Productions celebrates its centenary by going right back to where it started.

The company kicked off exactly a hundred years ago with a production of Pirates Of Penzance - the show they are now offering one hundred years later in honour of their landmark anniversary.

CAOS chairman Elizabeth Peacock directs the revival which runs in the Millennium Hall, Westbourne House School, Coach Road, Shopwhyke, PO20 2BH from June 2-4 at 7.30pm (tickets £10 on 01243 783945).

“It is our tribute to our ancestors!” she said.

CAOS, formerly known as Chichester Amateur Operatic Society, was born on May 6 1910 when cathedral lay vicars and local businessmen joined forces in celebration of Gilbert & Sullivan.

Thursday was half-day closing in Chichester, and it was on Thursday afternoons that they rehearsed their debut production, Pirates Of Penzance which they unveiled to the world on January 18 and 19 1911 at the Corn Exchange (now Next clothes store) with a cast of 45 and a full orchestra.

Elizabeth is keen - as CAOS doubtless were then - to capture the full fun and silliness of the whole thing.

“It has got some rousing music in it - and a stupid story! The story hinges on Frederick who, having reached his 21st year, is released from his apprenticeship to the Pirate King. He meets Mabel, the eldest daughter of Major-General Stanley and falls instantly in love with her.

“However Frederick finds out that he was born on February 29 and so technically he is still a pirate until his release on his 21st birthday which is 63 years away! Bound by his sense of duty, he is pleased that Mabel promises to wait for him faithfully!”

The show should cap an excellent centenary year for the Society which is planning a music hall/Christmas show in November, after which, next February, they hope to be back in their usual Minerva slot.

For Pirates, the Society wanted a summer production - which meant staging the show at a time when the Minerva was unavailable to them.

Elizabeth is hoping that their faithful audiences will make the journey with them to the school for this particular production: “We had the opportunity to go to Westbourne House and they have fallen over themselves to help us. It’s a fantastic auditorium.”