Iolanthe - 2006

May 23 – May 27, 2006
Production Team
Director: David Lampard
Musical Director: Ian Boath

Strephon loves Phyllis. Unfortunately so do half the House of Lords — including the Lord Chancellor himself!

So what chance does Strephon stand? Well, being a half a fairy (it’s a long story) he does have a collection of rather powerful allies. With the Fairy Queen and her throng standing by his side, then love is sure to prevail. But what will happen when the mortal sphere and fairy realm lock horns?

Victorian England and our own modern world provide the backdrop for a unique interpretation of this timeless classic when the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of SA present Iolanthe at the Union Theatre in May, and then the Helpmann Theatre (Mount Gambier) in June 2006.


A sweet fairy opera

IOLANTHE is one of Gilbert and Sullivan's more pointed political satires, but as director David Lampard points out, it's also a story about love and family.

The production focuses more on the personal than on the political, and although most of it is light-hearted, the moment near the end when Iolanthe reveals her identity to the husband from whom she has been parted is one of great dramatic intensity, like the magical transformation of Hermione in The Winter's Tale. The fact that half the cast play fairies makes the story very flexible in its time frame, and this production shamelessly mixes up 19th, 20th and 21st century styles of dress and demeanour, with great success.

Sky Ingram as Phyllis, the very contemporary “Ward in Chancery’’, looks like an Australian Idol contestant and sings like a classically trained, effortless angel. Her performance, like Paul Talbot's as her lover Strephon, is very natural and sweet. The experienced Melissa Hann as Iolanthe conveys both the character's charisma and her motherliness. Meran Bow is very funny as the substantial Queen of the Fairies and manages her difficult music with great professionalism.
Ian Muster has presence but a bit too much gravitas for the “patter” role of the Lord Chancellor, and is upstaged by a hilariously over-the-top performance from Barry Hill as the screamingly camp Black Rod. Timothy Ide shines in the role of the Earl of Mountararat, and Timothy Wilson makes a great impression as Private Willis.

Under Ian Boath's musical direction the singing is of very high quality and professionalism, but the singers are let down in places by some sections of the orchestra. The very focused and pulled-together look and feel of the show are no doubt partly due to director David Lampard's multi-skilled involvement in the sets, costumes and choreography.

The asymmetrical but beautifully balanced sets, designed by Lampard and Steve Parker, make clever use of symbolic circles: a fairy ring, a golfing green, a huge clock face suggesting Big Ben, and some softly glowing Victorian street lamps that suggest both the streets of London and the magical quality of the fairies. The fairy-lights on the fairies' wings are very witty, but their finely detailed, stylised stance and gestures, and costumes suggesting the folded wings of shimmering insects, are more genuinely suggestive of their magical nature.

Iolanthe isn't one of Gilbert and Sullivan's more catchy or more rollicking operettas, but there's something very benign about it, and this production is one of gentle, quirky humour and sweetness.

Review not published in any Messenger edition