2024: Iolanthe

A very different Iolanthe

Iolanthe was great fun for everyone, whether in the audience, in the orchestra pit, on the stage or behind the scenes, and we were all sad when its run came to an end. Michael Scott’s fresh vision for our production was a play-within-a-play, where the villagers of “Thanolie” (an anagram of Iolanthe, if you hadn’t worked it out!) meet at the village hall during an unexpected clash of bookings. The ladies of the Women’s Institute, having been inspired by the members of the dance class to discover their “fairy selves”, enlist their men-folk, and act out the story that Gilbert devised, though with some of the lyrics adapted to poke fun at more modern events and people. There’s more about those production aspects in the programme, which you can download at this link.

The set and setting the scene

This year our setting was a village hall, a concept that enabled us to have a very simple set which could be made and decorated in-house, and whose reflective surfaces probably enhanced our singing! Costumes could similarly be minimal – for many just a suggestion – and were donned on top of whatever the members of the village Women’s Institute, band or cricket team were wearing. By the end of the overture, the dancers had departed and the WI ladies had thought of the idea of putting on the dancers’ wings and singing through the opera; the cricket team and brass band were dressed by their womenfolk at the start of the Peers’ Chorus.

To give the audience some pre-warning about this very different context, Margaret Cooze, our Production Manager organised a foyer display to make it clear to the observant that there was going to be a clash of bookings … and to make some money by selling WI produce.

The comments

To quote an email received by your webmaster on the morning following the opening night: “The show was brilliant! A clever new take on an old favourite!”.  Posts on one of our Facebook pages were equally enthusiastic, and the comments included: “What a great fun production and fantastic singing!” – “We had a lovely night watching you all having so much fun on stage.” – “What an entertaining afternoon. Loved the production and thought it was a very clever idea. Well done to the Director. Spoke to a few people after and we were saying such a breath of fresh air to see something different!” – “Huge well done everybody! Really enjoyed that tonight. What a great fun production and fantastic singing!”

Susan Kennedy, Regional Representative for District SC10, attended our Saturday matinée and reported on behalf of NODA – her report is at this link.

The Dunfermline Press also appreciated our efforts, and gave us a full-page spread in their 7 March 2024 edition (p.26) illustrated with some excellent photographs by Dave Wardle. Rave reviews! It’s the same positive article about the Society that you’ll find at this link, but it’ll fit more easily in your scrapbook!

The cast

You can access the cast list at this link, which leads to the cast entries in our Meet the Stars section. One unusual casting for this production was that of Liz Landsman as Earl Tolloller: as a Thanolie villager, Liz runs the band, while her stage husband Robin, as the Earl of Mountararat, is one of the cricket team umpires. Some minor adjustments to music and dialogue were needed, but not as much as one might have supposed, and Liz was an invaluable addition to the House of Lords, helping to keep the gents chorus in order and teach them their moves.

One of the features of our Society is the number of couples who are members. This thumbnail (click to expand it in a new window) features Douglas and Susan Reid (back row), Michael and Fiona Enright (middle row), Eric and Margaret Brown (left front) and Joy and Willie Campbell (right front).

But those are just the couples where both were on stage … others with a family involvement in our show were Morag and Phil Riley (chorus and front-of-house manager), Kerry and Lindsay Black (Deputy Stage Manager and Assistant Stage Manager) and Anne and Colin Dolbear (Treasurer/Box Office/chorus and set painter). And Gilbert and Sullivan attracts the whole family… Andrew Murray (a recently-joined member of our chorus) is the brother of Jennifer Murray-Smith (Phyllis)!

Kerry’s Ode

There are some things we always do during Show Week. For example, after the final performance the gentlemen gather in the Gents Chorus dressing room and sing Cwm Rhondda, in memory of those of our number who are no longer with us. And at the after-show party Robin presents the ‘Franks’, acknowledging a particular contribution to the show, especially the embarassing moments!

Another Society tradition is for Kerry Black, usually our Mistress of the Wardrobe, but this year taking on additional responsibility as Deputy Stage Manager, to write an “Odious Ode” giving her view of the show, and recalling some of the things that happened during the week. She read this on-stage at the end of the evening performance, and you too can read Kerry’s Ode to Iolanthe at this link.

Our dress rehearsal

This year our team included Mark Adams as Assistant to the Director, and Mark took many photographs at the Dress Rehearsal, including the one that appears at the top of this page, for which careful timing was needed to get Eddie’s arms in exactly the right position. Those who look carefully at the captions will deduce that (in order to make it possible for the dancers to appear only in Act 1) the two duets for Strephon and Phyllis were “happily exchanged” – they have almost the same message – and that the many updates made to the text by our Director included removing the reference to Captain Eyre Massey Shaw, erstwhile Chief Officer of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, whose ability to quench the Fairy Queen’s great love was called into question in the original.

Behind the scenes

The pictures below were taken by various members of the Company on and off set during Show Week – thanks everyone, especially Caroline! So far there’s been little attempt to order them, but all have been captioned. Hovering your mouse over the image area will pause the autoplay, or you can select a frame from the film-strip at the bottom. Feel free to suggest improvements to the captions or to send me additional pictures (ku.gro.ssagdnull@nitram).

As always an archive page is a work in progress. If you have material to share or comments/corrections to make, please email your webmaster!