Date 13th June 2019
Society Matlock G & S Society
Venue The Medway Centre, Bakewell
Type of Production G&S
Director Nic Wilson
Musical Director Melanie Gilbert


Author: Joyce Handbury

The fairy Iolanthe was banished from Fairyland for marrying a mortal but, twenty five years later, the fairies still miss her and convince the Fairy Queen to allow her to return. Iolanthe reveals that she has a son, Strephon, who is a fairy down to his waist but has mortal legs. He has fallen in love with Phyllis, a ward of the Lord Chancellor, and wants to marry her, but there is a problem as everyone in the House of Lords wants to marry Phyllis, including the Lord Chancellor himself. Strephon seeks help from his mother and the Peers seeing him with a young woman, who in fact is his mother (fairies do not age, and so Iolanthe looks to be a girl of seventeen), try to convince Phyllis that her love is being unfaithful, and as punishment, the Fairy Queen makes Strephon a Member of Parliament and he is magically able to pass any Bill he wants. In the meantime, the fairies all fall in love with the Peers and the many twists and turns in this tangled plot eventually unravel and all ends well. 

Many aspects of the show had been modernised with several references being made to the locality and national current events. Costumes were updated but the fairies were kept quite traditional and were so beautifully attired. What an amazing and unexpected surprise it was to see that out of the eleven named principals seven were young people and how very talented they were into the bargain. Playing the lead role of Iolanthe was Alice Shaw. She was absolutely delightful and her beautiful singing of ‘My Lord, a suppliant at your feet’ was just sublime. As her Guardian, the Lord Chancellor, Nic Wilson was brilliant. His every move, his every word was so precisely and explicitly delivered, it was a joy to behold and his rendition of ‘Love unrequited robs me of my rest’ was outstanding. Lizzy Blades and Samuel Higginbottom were splendid as Phyllis and Strephon. Lizzy’s strong and lovely singing voice was very much in evidence whilst Samuel too had a super singing voice, but sadly at odd times, it was a little difficult to hear him over the orchestra. Susan Devaney was very regal as the Fairy Queen, she was both charming and funny especially in the scenes with the now Sergeant Willis of the Metropolitan Police. Sergeant Willis was wonderfully played by Max Taylor and how he managed to stay ‘frozen’ when put under a spell by the Fairy Queen was just amazing. Two exceptional and outstanding performances came from Chris Blackshaw as Lord Tolloller and Jamie Benson as Lord Mountararat. Both have such powerful and expressive singing voices equalled by excellent acting skills and as a double act they were just so funny - I can’t praise them enough, two great performances. Excellent support came form the three main fairies, Celia (Rachel Callen), Leila (Katie Henwood) and Fleta (Emily Higginbottom). The flirtatious ensemble of ‘Fairies’ were enchanting and the magnificent ‘Peers’ looked so dashing in their snazzy suits. I must say that all of the chorus singing was so harmoniously sung and the accompanying movements involved were so well executed. I was most impressed by the innovative and creative set design by Nic Wilson and Anne Flint. It consisted of five rotating ‘flats’ with woodland scenes on one side and on the reverse side, scenes of London. The exquisite artwork had been done by Anne and then digitally enlarged so as to fit the boards. They were put to great use not only as scenery but also by the cast using them as hiding and spying places etc. The superb nine piece orchestra produced a wonderful sound adding to the excellent singing throughout, of both the principals and chorus. A most enjoyable and fine production that everyone involved with, can be most proud - ‘Said I to myself, said I’!


Joyce Handbury