Alistair Donkin

Topsy Turvy may be the title of Mike Leigh’s film of the partnership of Gilbert & Sullivan, but it could equally apply to Alistair’s career.

Having practised as a solicitor, specialising in child care cases, for Shropshire County Council, and dabbled in local politics, being at one time Mayor of Market Drayton, he made a complete career change to pursue his love of the theatre, joining the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company in 1979. With them he played all the patter roles, often at short notice. Since the closure, in 1982, of the D’Oyly Carte, Alistair has developed a dual career as both performer and director.

As a performer he has appeared with the London Savoyards and the Magic of Gilbert & Sullivan. He has sung with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, the BBC Concert Orchestra (broadcast on BBC Radio 2) and the English Philharmonic Orchestra, appearing at all the major concert venues, including the Barbican Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, the Royal Albert Hall and the new Birmingham Symphony Hall. He is constantly in demand as a guest artiste with Choral and Operatic Societies throughout the country. On the wider front, he has toured the United States of America on eight occasions, with former colleagues from the D'Oyly Carte, in both concert and fully-staged presentations of the Savoy Operas including directing the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

During 1994 and 1995 Alistair also worked with Welsh National Opera on his favourite "patter" rôle, that of the jester Jack Point, in their production of The Yeomen of the Guard. Since 1997 Alistair has worked on the rôle of Ko Ko in Jonathan Miller's production of The Mikado for English National Opera for each of the three revival seasons.

As a director he works throughout the United Kingdom for N.O.D.A.-affiliated Societies, specialising in the presentation of the Savoy Operas, whilst recently branching out into other productions including Kismet, King & I, Me & My Girl, Sound of Music, Fiddler On The Roof, My Fair Lady, Orpheus In The Underworld, La Cage Aux Folles, Guys And Dolls, Merry Widow, Brigadoon and La Vie Parisienne. Since 1994, Alistair has directed the Gilbert & Sullivan workshop at the N.O.D.A. South West Regional Conference in Exmouth.

By way of combining both strands of his career, Alistair has been Stage Director and guest "patter" man for the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston, Texas, since 1982.

His directing skills have earned him 3 trophies for Best Director at the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival in Buxton and his production of The Mikado for the Gilbert & SUllivan Society of Houston earned them the title of International Champions; the NODA South West Regional Award of Excellence for both The Gondoliers with Penzance Amateur Operatic Society and Iolanthe with Taunton Amateur Operatic Society; and the Bristol Evening Post’s Rose Bowl Award for best production in the South West for Yeomen of the Guard with Taunton Amateur Operatic Society.

Since 1994, Alistair has been heavily involved with the International Festival of Gilbert & Sullivan, both in this country and the USA. He has appeared in professional productions of HMS Pinafore, Trial By Jury and The Sorcerer as well as directing the professional production of Iolanthe. He regularly directs the Festival production each year – a show staged in 6 days with a cast of enthusiastic amateurs.

Alistair continues to make appearances on television in programmes for the BBC and Independent Television, and is often called upon to make use of his previous legal experience in his performances. His most recent appearance was speaking Finnish in an episode of Emmerdale, trying desperately not to sound like the Muppets' Swedish chef!

Unusually for members of his profession, Alistair is fortunate to have bookings to direct Societies from as far afield as Harrogate, Halifax, Hereford, Portland, Sale, Houston, and others well into the future.

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