Friday, 2 March 2018

“Iolanthe” by University of Nottingham G&S Society
Djanogly Theatre, Sherwood Rise, Nottingham.
The fairy Iolanthe has been banished from fairyland because, 25 years previously, she married a mortal, which is forbidden by fairy law. The Queen of the fairies had saved Iolanthe from the death penalty by this banishment. Iolanthe’s son, Strephon, is a shepherd who wants to marry Phyllis, a Ward of Chancery. Strephon is part fairy, part human. All the members of the House of Peers also want to marry Phyllis.
When Phyllis sees Strephon hugging a young woman (not knowing that it is his mother – immortal fairies all appear young), she assumes the worst and sets off a climactic confrontation between the peers and the fairies. Strephon explains the situation and that, as his mother is a fairy, she is blessed with youthfulness, and they both ask Iolanthe to ask the Lord Chancellor to permit their marriage. The Lord Chancillor though is Iolanthe’s husband and he believes her to have died childless, and she doesn’t want to deceive him, so how do they resolve this quandary?
Desperate, Iolanthe unveils, ignoring the warnings of the unseen Fairies, revealing that she is his long-lost wife, and Strephon is his son. The Lord Chancellor is amazed to see her alive, but Iolanthe has again broken fairy law, and the Fairy Queen is now left with no choice but to punish Iolanthe with death.
As she prepares to execute Iolanthe, the Queen learns that the rest of the fairies have chosen husbands from among the peers, also incurring death sentences – something the Queen feels very uneasy with carrying out. The Lord Chancellor suggests a solution: change the law by inserting a single word: "every fairy shall die who doesn't marry a mortal." The Fairy Queen cheerfully agrees and, to save her life, the dutiful soldier, Private Willis, agrees to marry her.
As the norm with Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, there's a brilliantly witty script and this brilliant cast delivered the comedy, both verbally and physically, with great professionalism and enjoyment.
What came as a surprise was the power and quality of the singing from the whole cast. They had understood the humour and delivered the vocals with all of the fun that is intended by the writers.
Alex Carr (Iolanthe), Adam Ewers (Strephon), Frea Waninge (Fairy Queen), Niraali Patel (Phyllis), Jamie Goodliffe (Lord Chancellor), Hannah Gorton (Lord Tolloller), Jonathan Salt (Earl of Mountararat), Daniel Crawshaw (Private Willis), Katrina Wilkins (Celia), Ruby Hawley (Leila) and Marha Bowles (Fleta) are the very talented cast.
I really must mention Niraali though as Phyllis. She has the most beautifully natural and powerful voice that I have heard for one so young.
Adam, as well as playing a half mortal half fairy boy next door, also directed this piece. The pace was kept up so that there was never an empty stage, keeping everyone's attention focused on the cast, the characters and the story.
Jamie Goodliffe was so enjoyable to watch and his tongue twister version of the "Nightmare" song aka "When You're Lying Awake" is a joy both aurally and visually, as most of Gilbert & Sullivan's patter songs are.
You know, it is very difficult to highlight any of these lot over the rest just for the sheer professionalism and fun every single performer here showed. As a team they smashed it.
Gilbert & Sullivan music has a special sound to their music and Musical Director Matthew Buxton created that sound that I had come to expect from G&S, adding to the whole feel and sound to this piece of theatre.
This is my first taste of the University of Nottingham's Gilbert & Sullivan Society shows, and I really hope that it won't be my last.
An excellent show and an excellent cast and production team.

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