The Ballet of Pineapple Poll was created by Cranko in collaboration with Charles Mackerras, who freely arranged tunes by Sullivan for the Savoy Operas. The story was based on Gilbert’s Bab Ballads “The Bumboat Women’s Story”. The ballet was first performed on the 23rd March 1951 at Sadlers Wells.
The ballet opens with the sailors of the good ship HMS ‘Hot Cross Bun’ meeting sweethearts and wives, while Jasper, pot-boy at ‘the Steam Packet’, serves drinks to the assembled company. Pineapple Poll comes off the Bumboat selling her wares. Jasper makes shy advances which Poll rudely rejects. She with all the other girls only has eyes for the dashing Captain Belaye, who makes his entrance dancing a hornpipe at which the girls swoon. The sailors are far from pleased and drag their women off leaving the Captain to meet his fiancee, Blanche, who is – alas! – accompanied by her aunt, Mrs Dimple, who never stops talking. The Captain, none too pleased, finally escorts the two ladies off. The sailors’ girls are still mooning over the Captain when the sailors enter in a great state of anger. An altercation occurs and the return of the Captain only makes matters worse. The scene ends in confusion.
The next scene sees the Captain enter followed by Poll disguised in sailor’s clothes. Other odd-looking sailors go aboard too. Jasper rushes to the quayside, sees Poll’s clothes lying abandoned and concludes that Poll has drowned herself. He dances sadly alone clutching Poll’s clothes.
The final scene is on board HMS ‘Hot Cross Bun’. The Captain drills his crew, who have become very inefficient. He orders a cannon to be fired. This is too much for Poll as the din makes her faint. The Captain endeavours to revive her but on hearing a clock chime rushes off abruptly, leaving Poll bewildered at the unmasculine behaviour of her fellow sailors. The Captain returns with Blanche whom he presents as his bride to the assembled company, who all faint in horror. Confusion follows when the sailors tear off their sailor’s garb and beards, and declare their passion for the Captain. The real sailors enter in fury but become reconciled when the Captain is promoted to Admiral and Jasper is made Captain. Poll instantly falls in love with Jasper. And so they all live happily ever after with Mrs Dimple raised on high as Britannia.