Iolanthe

Date 7th October 2016
Society Chesterfield Gilbert & Sullivan Society
Venue The Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield
Type of Production Musical
Director Nic Wilson
Musical Director Andrew Marples
Choreographer Catherine Shepherd

Report

Author: Joyce Handbury

The fairy Iolanthe has been banished from fairyland because she married a mortal – this is forbidden by fairy law – and is now living at the bottom of a stream. The fairies persuade the Fairy Queen to allow her to return and on her return learn that she has a son, Strephon, who is a half fairy and half mortal. He is in love with Phyllis, the ward of the Lord Chancellor, who is also in love with Phyllis as is the entire House of Lords. The fairies and the peers clash over this, meanwhile Strephon is made an MP, there is an unexpected revelation, and in the end everyone is happy. I certainly wasn’t expecting to see ladies dressed in jumpers and skirts, wearing pearl necklaces, carrying handbags and reading ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and immaculately suited men with either a red or a blue tie appear on the stage. This was going to be so very different from the ‘norm’ but it was an utterly brilliant ‘spin’ that the Director, Nic Wilson, had conceived and I loved every minute of it. Of course, there were many references to events that are current at the moment - Brexit, Brussels, Boris, ‘bicycle’ incidents etc, and one would have to see it more than once to pick them all out. In the title role Julie Currey was so appealing. Her lovely warm voice was captivating, especially in the rendition of ‘My Lord, a suppliant at your feet’. Judith Hill was excellent as the Fairy Queen. She was regal, as became her status, but also showed the tender hearted side of the character. Her superb powerful singing coupled with her great comic acting ability was a joy to behold. What a charming couple Laura Watkins and Nathan Blood were as Phyllis and Strephon. They were an absolute delight in both singing and acting. Another excellent ‘coupling’ was Max Taylor as Earl Tolloller and Davron Hicks as the Earl of Moutararat. Both have powerful, expressive singing voices and working well together, managed to exploit the comedy brilliantly. Splendid support came from Lizzy Blades as Celia (I understand she stepped into the breach virtually at the last minute), Phillippa Lockwood as Fleta, Anne Flint as Leila (it was lovely to see Anne back on the stage and in such fine voice) and Raymond Hill as Sergeant Willis. A standout performance, for me, came from Stephen Godward as The Lord Chancellor. He totally commanded the stage and his acting and singing skills were, without doubt, exceptional. The trio ‘He who shies at such a prize’ with the two Earls was first-rate. The members of the “Fairy Ring”, the WI, Labour and Conservative Peers (the Ladies and Gents ensemble) were wonderful. Their harmonious singing and antics were sublime. The addition of Emelie Andrews, Kerry Fagan, Lucy Kenworthy, Lydia Palmer-Coole and Briony Warsop as specialist dancers, who were the Arcadian Fairies, was inspirational. The choreography and their execution of it was enchanting. They were so well integrated into the production that they became part and parcel of it and were not just an ‘add-on’. The set was just perfect, pillars were adorned with climbing branches depicting an Arcadian landscape at an English country house for Act 1 with a change of backcloth for the exterior of The Palace Yard, Westminster for Act 2. The orchestra was outstanding. What a lift it must give to the cast to be performing alongside such wonderful, masterful musicians who together produced such a glorious sound. Congratulations to everyone involved and especially to Nic Wilson, the Director, to Andrew Marples, the Musical Director and to Catherine Shepherd, the Choreographer. Chesterfield G&S can certainly “let their trumpet bray” – a superb production.