Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s Iolanthe

Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s Iolanthe

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Northcott Theatre 12-15th March

Image Credits: exeternorthcott.co.uk
Image Credits: exeternorthcott.co.uk

Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s Iolanthe was full of floaty fairies, plenty of light humour and an excellently rendered score. Despite this, it was unfortunately underwhelming. Catering for their ‘town’ audience, it was a particularly gentle comic operetta which lacked pace in certain places. That being the case there were definitely stand-out performances from several of the cast members, and the wind and percussion sections of the band deserve special mention.

Opening on a woodland scene, we were introduced to the vast cast of fairies who populate the production with appropriately vapid smiles and an air of faux mysticism. Amidst the glittering flounces of fairy dances, the scene is set; the protagonist Strephon has fallen in love with Phyllis, who is protected as a Ward of the Court. In the fairies attempt to reconcile Strephon’s station with his love, misunderstandings ensue. The climax of the operetta is the most emotionally convincing scene, but the tension breaks a moment later when all loose ends are tied up in an amusingly neat conclusion to the show.

Unfortunately, Iolanthe doesn’t live up to previous G&S shows or other Northcott productions, which is perhaps partly to do with the choice of operetta and possibly to do with what seems to have been a lack of direction. The show had some topical applications, with satirical commentary on politics and equal rights, but there was a lack of narrative which made the production stodgy rather than witty.

That’s not to say that the show was not successful in other areas of humour. Olivia Luder was clearly on form as Fleta, and Charlie Hughes had impeccable comic timing as Private Wilkes. However the comic entertainment of the evening definitely came from Daniel Morris as the Lord Chancellor – his rich voice and expressive face was the source of many belly laughs, which broke the monotony of the slower musical numbers. The Fairy Queen, played by Lucy Harrison, is also worth a mention – her husky deep voice was lovely to listen to. It made a stark contrast to Nicola Wilkes’ clear high voice who had an incredible vocal strength as Phyllis.

The cast and production team obviously had a blast creating Iolanthe and it really comes through in the performances, but it was obviously a first night, and there seemed to be quite a lack of new faces. Overall, however, the show was an uplifting and a pleasant evening of light entertainment.

3 stars

Natalie Garces-Bovett 

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