Wed 11th to Sat 14th March 2015
Palace Theatre, Redditch
- Director – Steve Skinner
- Musical Director – Austin Poll
- Stage Manager – Andy Witcombe
- Assistant Stage Manager – Steve Wright
- Rehearsal Pianist – Carol Griffiths
- Iolanthe – Roz Chalk
- Lord Chancellor – Michael Faulkner
- Fairy Queen – Eleanor Peberdy
- Earl Tolloller – Alan Hastings
- Earl of Mountararat – Sam Smith
- Strephon – Michael Hastings
- Phyllis – Sophie Hill
- Private Willis – Michael Hawkins
- Celia – Abigail Cole
- Fleta – Georgie Roberts
- Leila – Harriet Mills
Iolanthe, Astwood Bank Operatic Society, Palace Theatre, Redditch, 11 March 2015
THIS Gilbert & Sullivan operetta about a fairy banished for life for daring to marry a mere mortal has as much political resonance in the lead up to a General Election in 2015 as it did when first performed in 1882.
But if politics isn’t your thing, don’t be put off, as Gilbert’s witty satire lampooning the House of Lords in particular as a preserve of the privileged and dim-witted, gives it a universal appeal.
The political party system and other institutions also come in for a dose of satire and ABOS producer Steve Skinner cleverly introduced references to our modern day politicians and political parties as there was no such thing as UKIP, or the Labour party for that matter, in the 19th Century.
It has to be said that this operetta does swing (political pun intended) from the serious and downright somber to the extremely funny, especially in the final scene which was guaranteed to send audiences home with a warm glow. But this is typical G&S.
There are varied parts aplenty for all ages of men and women in this production, giving a chance for the society to show off the depth of its membership.
Youngsters Sophie Hill as shepherdess Phyllis and her lover, also a shepherd, Michael Hastings as Strephon, were the stand-out performers, proving casting was just right as they are the main parts. Both had clear and powerful voices as well as an essential stage presence.
Michael Faulkner’s depiction of the rather buffoon-like Lord Chancellor was entertaining and accomplished. His clear and strong voice rose above all others, while, and I will have said this before, he can pull some rubbery facial expressions completing the part to perfection. And while we’re at it, how does anyone learn all the words to the wonderful ‘Love, unrequited, robs me of my rest’? Leaves me with nightmares just thinking about it!
Society President Michael Hawkins had the fun of delivering one of the show’s lighter parts as Private Willis (and made a great fairy!), while Eleanor Peberdy put in an accomplished and confident Queen of the Fairies.
The naughty Iolanthe herself was played by the endearing Roz Chalk, while the rest of the fairies provided charming support. Earls Sam Smith (surely not that Sam Smith!) and Alan Hastings had a lot of hard work to do – and carried it out with aplomb.
This rather batty fairy opera could not have been staged of course without the excellent ABOS orchestra, ably conducted by Austin Poll. Rarely seen, but plainly heard all the way through, the not inconsiderable ensemble provided the underpinning base for this delightful production.
An enjoyable evenings entertainment
Iolanthe is a much loved and well known offering from the pen of WS Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan so it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I read in the programme that the action was set in unspecified Victorian/Edwardian times , with scant regard for historical or constitutional accuracy !
I need not have concerned myself unduly, the ruse was to smooth the way to allow a full participation by all the company, in essence half the peers were ladies pre-empting the constitutional changes to allow such a situation by over a century.
I attended on first night where there were a few glitches but nothing that would not be cleared up in the succeeding performances.
The fairies were young and beautiful, certainly they were from the Circle where I sat, The Queen of the Fairies (Ellie Peberdy) was Regal and Iolanthe (Roz Chalk) was, as the script requires, too young to have a handsome son like Strephon ( Michael Hastings).. The Peers and Peeresses looked and sounded very regal and then we had Phyllis (Sophie Hill) and two cheeky chappies in the form of the Lord Chancellor ( Michael Faulkner) and Private Willis (Michael Hawkins) .
In all, a good well rounded show with sound principals, the limelight was, as is expected in G & S, stolen by the antics of The Lord Chancellor and it was a delight to watch Michael Faulkner unravel Fairy Law. The President of the Society , Michael Hawkins was there to welcome me on my arrival at the Theatre and then he opened Act 2 as Private Willis with his philosophical “When all night long a chap remains…” suitably embellished to incorporate all current politicians and political groupings.
The scenery was special, a houses of parliament which lit up was a splendid background, the costumes too were very apt, I especially liked the way the fairy wings lit up.
In conclusion, an enjoyable evenings entertainment.
Michael Hastilow – NODA Regional Representative – Worcestershire East (District 12)by