Iolanthe

Date 8th May 2015
Society Eastbourne G & S Society
Venue Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne
Type of Production G & S
Director Christopher Peck
Musical Director Pat White

Report

Author: Anne Lawson

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25 years prior to the action Iolanthe married a mortal – a capital crime. However the Fairy Queen reduces the sentence to banishment on condition she doesn’t see her husband again. Strephon her son, now a shepherd, wishes to marry shepherdess Phyllis, ward in Chancery. There is disapproval and of course she doesn’t yet know her beloved is half a fairy!  Inevitable confusion continues throughout, taking us to the Houses of Parliament, but in true G & S style by the end all is resolved – everyone gets married and flies off to Fairyland!
On the front cover of the programme were beautifully drawn black/white caricatures of principals with guardsman in bearskin and scarlet tunic, The Houses of Parliament in the background, with Big Ben as the ‘I’ of Iolanthe. I believe the artist was Ian Parratt. The A5 booklet was packed with really interesting information.
Under the expert baton of Pat White, with leader Lisa Wigmore, the sizable, well balanced orchestra played from the pit with Percussion/Timpani player Avril Vegh rather well placed in a box. It was good to hear voices without microphones in use - both vocals and libretto projecting with clarity – a rare experience nowadays.  Strong principal numbers, together with plenty of rousing ensemble work, both serious and comedic items.
We were immediately transported into a fairytale created by The Matthew 25 Mission. On opening we saw Iolanthe sitting on a rock playing her cello with a frog dancing.  An extra finishing touch using the  little bridge,  I liked the silhouettes of London and the Chancellor’s bedroom, simplicity of bed and wardrobe and the working of puppets above the screen and of course the Sentry Box most amusing. The fluorescent fish were particularly well operated swimming across the stage and back.  Helen Morbey was responsible for the many props and the back stage team worked quietly keeping the action flowing. Costumes were supplied by Val Dormady, pretty fairy frocks with good accessories, tights, undergarments and flatties giving perfect finishing touches. Fun added with use of onesies for the ‘If You Go In’ trio. Queen of the Fairies costume with Britannia bodice was most effective.  Strephon wore the perfect fleece and Phyllis was modern in her gilet and green wellies. The haughty Peers smart in their coloured shirts, dark flannels with the addition of rosettes and sprouting wings in Act 11!
Douglas Morgan was responsible for the Lighting Design, with sound controlled and comfortable throughout, good to hear the orchestra not outdoing the singers!
Christopher Peck successfully created his own interpretation using both his panto and comedy expertise, making this a fun experience.  How apt to be able to use the current political situation of a General Election to update some of the action and words!  Balanced movement throughout, with assistant Lucy Sarsfield (also playing Iolanthe) together with Therese Hall.  Peers were well rehearsed and created some interesting formations – particularly for the Tantantara song. Nicely timed comedy from trio, Earl of Mountararat played by John Kimberley, Earl Tolloller portrayed Michael Bale and a strong, polished Paul Eccles as The Lord Chancellor. Principal and chorus singing was clear, and enjoyable, there was plenty of humour.  Other principal parts were suitably characterised, Moira Raines an elegant Fairy Queen, well supported by the three named fairies and ensemble fairies. Shepherdess Phyllis, Sarah Townson paired well with Stan Fillery as Iolanthe’s son Strephon. I really did enjoy Peter Tucknott as Grenadier Guardsman Private Willis, a great cameo role.