Iolanthe – February 2012


By Gilbert and Sullivan

Directed by Peter Mulloy

Carla Rosa Company

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Monday 13th February 2012

This was definitely a game of two halves; the first half was a bit dull, and even a G&S fan like me was nodding off from time, while the second half opened well with the song from Private Willis and the contributions of the Earls of Mountararat and Tolloller, and it felt a lot livelier after that. I enjoyed the performance overall, though I found the Queen of the Fairies and the Lord Chamberlain were weaker than the rest of the cast; we couldn’t make out their lyrics so well, and they didn’t sustain the energy during their sections. The nightmare song isn’t my favourite patter song anyway, and this wasn’t the best version I’ve heard by a long way.

The set was fairly simple. Two flats of trees stood on either side of the stage to create the entrances, and a backdrop behind had an arch of flowers and greenery over a cobweb, through which the small orchestra could be seen. The costumes were again based on Victorian designs, so the fairies were pretty and the peers were in formal robes, as was the Lord Chancellor. The Queen of the Fairies had a black outfit with extra sleeves, as for a spider, Strephon was in a fairly bland shepherd’s outfit and Phyllis had a nice pink shepherdess dress.

That was the first half. For the second half the backdrop had changed to the Houses of Parliament, and a sentry box stood on the left hand side of the stage. The orchestra was still visible through the screen, but without the large hole they’d had in the first half, the conductor had a long journey to get to the front to take his bows at the end. The costumes were largely the same; the fairies wore sashes with ‘Strephon’ on them, while Strephon and Phyllis were much better dressed. Sergeant Willis was splendid, as usual, in an impressive Guards uniform – I fully understand his attraction for the Queen of the Fairies. Incidentally, she was dressed as Queen Victoria for this half; a nice touch.

Despite the weaker aspects of the production, it was well worth the visit for the second half alone, and it’s always good to see a company prepared to do a Savoy opera in the traditional manner.

© 2012 Sheila Evans at

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