- Vol. 06
- Chapter 02
The Lost Operetta of Gilbert and Sullivan
Welcome to The Kibble Palace.
Are you here for the tree ferns or the carp?
Our next performance starts in ten minutes.
The fish will sing in their native dialects.
Should any of you require a translation,
the homeless gentleman sleeping on the bench,
Gerald, will be delighted to oblige, as master
of most aquatic tongues, from Malacca Clack,
to guttural Hudson and lisping Timorian.
For the historians of light opera among you,
Gilbert & Sullivan’s last operetta disappeared
into a teak cabinet in the War Office in 1899,
deemed ruinous to the future of the colonies.
Entitled 'Fishtopia', the only other manuscript
Gilbert entrusted to a Glasgow schoolmistress
who tutored the forebears of tonight’s cast.
Costumed in purple robes with orange masks,
they play an exotic secret police force
commanded tonight by the fire-bellied toad
on the stone – our crested newt is unwell.
We open with the frilly pink shubunkin chorus
telling of a world where Man outnumbers fish
which have become more precious than gold.
Suitors propose to their marriage partners
not with a ring but a herring or mackerel.
Billingsgate becomes the new Stock Exchange.
Only the Queen has permission to consume
the flesh, only when expecting royal offspring.
The Lost Operetta of Gilbert and SullivanWhales finally drop all mammalian ambition
to develop scales and external fertilization.
On Savile Row, the “merman” craze takes off
with the flared uni-trouser and kipper cravat.
The Coldstream Guard swap bearskin busbies
for trout-head replicas with Spode china eyes.
A baby with fins is born to a seamstress in Hull.
Ladies and Gentlemen, disarm your mobiles,
our lily pads are stirring…