Iolanthe November 2007

FAIRIES invaded Parliament – and Southwick’s Barn Theatre – in Southwick Opera’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe.
Updated for the present day, the story centred on Phyllis (Karen Orchin), a ward of court, forbidden to marry her sheep farmer boyfriend Strephon (Andy Hutchison) – who, unbeknown to her, is half fairy.
In director Simon Gray’s production, the two became Australian sheep farmers – and, to help with authenticity, Southwick Opera engaged the help of Australian actress Lucinda Cowden, who appeared as Melanie in Neighbours, as dialect coach.
Laughs came thick and fast straight from the off, with the chorus of “dainty little fairies” providing much amusement.
Martin Clarke was in fine form as the Lord Chancellor, with Tony Adams and William Revels also hilarious as two earls, both in love with Phyllis.
The strong cast also included Laura Brookes as Iolanthe, Alex White as parliamentary security guard Willis, Anthea Myall as the Queen of the fairies, and Charlotte Fane, Nicky Fane and Becky Scoble as three of her fairy troupe.
It would be unfair – and difficult – to single out any one cast member for special praise, as everyone gelled perfectly.
The show ended with everyone set to live happily ever after in Fairyland, but not until another entertaining song and dance routine had been completed.
Everything in the production seemed to work in harmony, from the musicians’ performance under the baton of Simon Gray, Jodie Harrop’s choreography and Mike Medway’s consistently impressive lighting design, to the cast members and chorus alike.
Gilbert and Sullivan may not necessarily be for highbrow opera enthusiasts, but one audience member, overheard after the show, pretty much summed it up: “You could probably find fault with it if you wanted to look,” she said, “but it was just so good.”