Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
The Guildhall,
March 1957
Cast List
The Lord Chancellor
Earl of Mountararat
Earl Tolloller
Private Willis
Queen of the Fairies
Lord Chancellor's Attendant

Notes on this performance

30. Iolanthe

Wands like spears…

It cannot be denied that the good people of SAOS enjoyed their G&S operas and, unsurprisingly, they chose another one, Iolanthe, for their 1957 production. They also liked to stay with the ‘known and trusted’ so Alfred Tomalin and D Cecil Williams remained in charge of proceedings. The Society’s good name was beginning to spread far and wide and the BBC invited the group to broadcast from Southampton in August. The invitation was regretfully declined since too many members would be away on holiday but Mr Tyler (of the BBC) promised to see Iolanthe and also hoped to attend a rehearsal to hear the chorus in action. 

It was resolved that for this production the conductor would take a bow alongside the producer on most nights (but especially the last) and that backstage visits from friends and relations would be curtailed thanks to passes being issued and the Guildhall providing a man in uniform on the stage door. However, the suggestion that there should be no speeches from the stage after the last performance was not accepted.  The Committee was also pruned so that there would only be six elected to join the officers and two would retire each year – a system that existed until 2015. Apparently, the Chairman only managed to attend one meeting during the course of the season.

With a strong principal line up that rarely changed and just the one show a year, there was frustration about the opportunities available to the membership, so W O Skinner suggested forming a group within the Society to cater for their needs – ‘The Lesser Lights’. The idea was thought worthwhile pursuing though early shows ‘would have to be of a private nature with an audience of members only’. A Berryman championed the cause and tried to gauge interest but the men were largely indifferent so it was thought best to plan for a concert performance of a lesser-known opera.

The Income Tax issue was finally resolved after an interview with the Chief Inspector of Taxes who agreed to withdraw their claim against the Society provided the Reserve Fund was not increased beyond £2000 – liability to tax on interest from investments had to remain. A check of the fund revealed that it stood at £2111 so a list of suitable charities was drawn up and the free refreshments during the intervals were reinstated.

The Echo reviewer declared, ‘The singing is of the highest standard and the voices of all the principal characters have quality. In fact, all the cast could sing and all could and did act.’ Pamela Fulford’s performance in the title role was considered ‘a triumph’ but he was not so impressed by the fairies’ wands, which ‘were more like spears and prevented any graceful ensemble.’

Iolanthe made a profit of £28 8s 4d (£28.42) and, thanks to the intervention of the tax man, the Society donated £260 to various charities, including the British Red Cross, the Moyana Appeal, the Boy Scouts Association, PDSA, Talbot House for Seafaring Boys, NSPCC, Mentally Handicapped Children, Hampshire Association for the Deaf, the League of Friends and Save the Children Fund.

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Trio

Bernard Harman (Earl of Mountararat), Tom Judd (The Lord Chancellor), John Hoskins (Earl Tolloller)

Photo of Strephon

Raymond Harris (Strephon) with Winifred Barrett (Phyllis)