Reviewed by Dave Smith
The G&S Society trimmed the casting right back for this tight, entertaining production in the Opera Studio. If at first that seemed as if it might not work, but the powerful opening fairies’ chorus of four quickly dispelled that. Sarah Nagy, Carolyn Curtis, Liana Nagy and Jennifer O’Connor set a high standard of singing and movement which was sustained through the show.
The fanciful story of the banished fairy Iolanthe, her half-mortal son Strephon, and his love for the delightful Phyllis gets entwined in an oh-so-light-operatic way with the House of Lords and its pretentions and weaknesses.
Director David Lampard used a simple set with a central sloping disc to good effect, and Musical Director Ian Andrew led a tuneful, mellow sounding ensemble of piano and strings.
The ensemble work was very strong. Patrick Witcombe as Strephon and Desiree Frahn as Phyllis were a convincing modern young couple. Their duet ‘None Shall Part Us’ framed in a picnic scene was a delight.
Earls Tolloller (Paul Talbot) and Mountararat (Peter Hopkins) worked well off each other, making the most of their contrasts in height and voice. They were well supported in encapsulating the entire House of Lords into a quartet, by Nicholas Coxhill and Steve Parker.
Vanessa Lee Shirley was a most powerful and commanding Queen of the fairies, and Alexandra Gard brought authority to her serious interpretation of Iolanthe.
The production was sprinkled with topical political references, including Private Willis’ (Rodney Hutton) Act 2 opener ‘When All Night Long’.
Richard Trevaskis used his broad experience to bring a slightly incredulous Chancellor to life, and the invented character of an uber-camp Black Rod, stylishly sustained by Rod Schultz, brought the house down on many occasions.
In all, this was an energetic, funny and revitalised interpretation which succeeded on many levels.