This week, the University of St Andrews Gilbert & Sullivan Society tackled “Iolanthe” – a story of fairies and politicians dripping with classic British satire. Having never seen or even heard any music of G&S, I was both intrigued and bewildered at the initial story line. From the initial shaky but steady start from the orchestra, the music gave away the light hearted, quirkiness that would characterise the rest of the play.
Credits to the director for creating the contrast between the mischievous and playful fairies, and the pompous and most definitely comical House of Peers, which set forth a whimsical and delightful relationship that left the audience smiling throughout the show. A strong chorus performance from the dainty fairy ladies was accentuated by wonderful vocals from the Queen of Fairies, Gwendolyn Davis, and her three main acquaintances. The move into the love story was executed strongly and with joy in doing so thanks to Alex Levine and Lucy Coatman who, it has to be noted, vocals shone throughout the performance.
For me, I highly enjoyed the chorus numbers as this allowed the cast to show their strength when all parties, including the orchestra, worked as one to produce a flowing and solid group vocal sound. A lovely touch with using the red gowns as part of costumes resonated nicely with the students in the audience, and for the older company, a brief but highly memorable performance from Ian Bradley as Private Shaw brought laughs and smiles all round. A special mention must go to Peter Sutton who delivered an exceptionally comical performance as Lord Chancellor and kept the energy alive during non-vocal scenes with his unwavering satire of the political system that still resonated with a contemporary audience.
Despite sometimes shaky transitions from one song to the other, St Andrews G&S performed with passion and commitment to the enjoyment of “Iolanthe” over one hundred years after its initial debut. In their own words: “O Rapture, How Beautiful!”
Images courtesy of Henry Legg Photography.