Performing all 14 of Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas in one show
Comedy, as Joe Harmston well knows, can be a serious business.
Gilbert and Sullivan Abridged, which he is bringing to stages across Britain, rifles through all 14 of the composers' operettas in 90 minutes.
This new production sees three cast members portraying a bumbling operatic society, which is desperately trying to raise funds.
The show sees the singers performing some 25 musical numbers, while playing different characters and wrestling their way into a series of different costumes.
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"If you are being silly, you have to make sure you are consistent – in order that it makes sense," said Joe, the show's director.
"The business of making comedy is very hard work, because you hope you have created a real world for people."
Joe was first introduced to Gilbert and Sullivan during his childhood, when his parents took him to see the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, which specialises in staging the composers' work.
Joe, whose credits include work with the Agatha Christie Company, said: "I loved the silliness of it, particularly the patter songs.
"But later on in life, I'd forgotten about Gilbert and Sullivan.
"When you start out as a director, you want to be involved in more serious things.
"Then when I was asked to do this, it all came flooding back to me. It is a such a wonderful thing, there are all these clever numbers to rediscover. It is a real joy."
The production touches upon many of the best-known works by these famed composers of the Victorian era, including The Mikado and Pirates of Penzance.
But it was the issue of picking which songs that proved a headache for the company.
"That was the great challenge," said Joe.
"I was Tweeting a lot of societies to get feedback.
"I know some people will think it would have nice if we'd included this, or that particular number. But if you have everything in that everyone wanted it would be the Gilbert and Sullivan equivalent to Wagner's Ring Cycle – we'd be on stage for days.
"Some songs appear as tiny snippets, or as part of a medley.
"We know we can't please everyone but we hope it exudes a love of their work."
The cast of Jane Webster, Eric Carte and David Osmond, who are accompanied by an onstage piano player, have been enjoying the test.
"It is a hell of a lot of work for the performers – the quantity of lyrics is monumental," said Joe.
"Normally, the comic baritone has one major patter song and then a few other bits – here David has got all the big patter numbers from all the shows.
"Eric also has all the huge numbers, as has Jane – alongside being on stage the whole time, creating the characters and swapping costumes.
"The important thing is we are very loyal to the music – we are not sending it up.
"All of us admire the songs, with a plot designed to echo the ludicrous nature of Gilbert and Sullivan's.
"If you regard them as serious operas, though, you might be disappointed."