Iolanthe is a political show involving fairies and peers of the House of Lords, which on paper sounds an odd combination but the skilful Gilbert and Sullivan make it seem like a most natural occurrence. Plymouth Gilbert and Sullivan have updated the setting to the 1960s. As director Alan Spencer says, ‘think Hairspray meets Westminster’. This makes the story more accessible to today’s audience and also accentuates the humour. It works a treat and I urge all amateur-dramatic companies to try adding their own twist to their productions.
The show opened as the overture began, played by the slick orchestra. Their dynamic control was excellent and the tone when playing the softer songs was beautiful. Then entered the fairies, in their amazing wigs. The fairy choreography was fabulous throughout, with the use of many moves associated with the 60s. They were screaming at a miming boy band who were performing during the overture.
All the principals were excellent. From Strephon’s (Sam Wilson) sweet boyish nature to Phyliss’ (Bianca Phillips) excellent singing voice, Queenie’s (Helen Haviland) spellbinding stage presence to The Lord Chancellor’s (Colin Damp) handle on his incredibly wordy songs.
While all the Principals played strong parts, this performance had an equally strong ensemble. The blending of voices and clarity of the ensemble numbers was commendable. This performance demonstrated the possibilities for the future of amateur-dramatics. As is unavoidable, shows are performed over and over but Plymouth Gilbert and Sullivan adapted the original and brought something fresh to the theatre.