Review: Iolanthe

"Iolanthe is comedy at its best."
“Iolanthe is comedy at its best.”

A refreshingly witty, modern update from the original, Iolanthe is comedy at its best. The talented Gilbert and Sullivan society have stepped up to the mark and put on a fantastic show, with a brilliant cast and orchestra working together to make the magic real. Arguably one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s best satires, this production of the classic is sure to work its spell on you.

The first act opens as a chorus of fairies, by no means dainty or shying, stand court to plead mercy from the Fairy Queen (Fliss Bott), who had banished Iolanthe (Sophie Hurst) for breaking the laws of the land to a pond in St. James’ Park, London, much to the amusement of the audience. We shortly meet Strephon (Ryan Greer), the half-fairy, half-human, and hilarity ensues as we hear many a joke about how he met the mortal love of his life (he hoovered her carpet), and learn that the Lord Chancellor (Chris Oates) has made it illegal with his own designs on the girl in question, his ward. Thereon, the precedent is set, as banter meets battle for the hand of Phyllis (Stephanie Wake-Edwards) and all the Lords of the House are left vying for her love.

Though it takes some time to understand the position of each character at first, we are soon left laughing as Greer does a marvellous impersonation of Patrick Swayze, parodying the theme from Ghost to prove to Phyllis that Strephon is not the only one who is in love with her; the lords do not just want “family friendship”. Another fantastic scene is when we are first introduced to the peers; the hilarity in the physical comedy as the Lord Chancellor fashions a chair out of a peer and sings about how he can do as he wishes underlines the key points of the opera. Out-of-touch, and definitely not within reach of Phyllis, the peers’ bumbling ways and upper-class snobbery is a recipe for many laughs; an accurate representation of modern-day perceptions of the House of Lords. Despite having first been performed in 1882, Iolanthe remains as relevant as ever, for instance when the notion of a democratic House of Lords sets everyone up in panic.

The songs which bind the performance demonstrate a delightful mixture of ethereal and nationalist sentiments, reinforcing that the two worlds which once collided were now colliding again. As brilliant devices are employed with musical Chinese Whispers misinforming Phyllis of Strephon’s supposed affair, and the suitors for Phyllis’ hand decide that they prefer each other’s company, Iolanthe reaches a lovely conclusion where the Lords, so dismayed by Strephon’s becoming an MP, and disliking that he had made the House democratic, decide it would be better go to off with the fairies.

Overall, this is a production worth seeing, as it ties together satire and serious moments with a stellar performance from the cast and musicians along the way. Special mentions go to Morven Hamilton, Kristina Craven and the rest of the team for their hard work; it definitely paid off, because this is a production not to be missed.

It is on again in Central Hall on Saturday 1st March, with a matinee performance at 2:30pm, and evening showing at 7:30pm.

Tickets £5 for students, £8 concessions, and £12 adults.
To buy, call 07703 963096, visit YourShop / Vanbrugh Stalls on campus, purchase tickets on the door, or visit