Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
Nuffield Theatre,
July 1993
Cast List
The Lord Chancellor
Earl of Mountararat
Earl Tolloller
Private Willis
Queen of the Fairies
Lord Chancellor's Gillie

Notes on this performance

79. Iolanthe       

Thank you Echo...

Considering the Iolanthe of 1993 won a prestigious NODA Award, the review in the Echo must rate as the most unhelpful SOS critique ever written. It reads (in its entirety): ‘Peers of the realm came in for stick long before The Sun lifted the lid on their worst secrets. The Gilbert and Sullivan opera Iolanthe teases with one gloriously silly premise: what if the Lord Chancellor of England fell in love with – and fathered a child by – a fairy. Southampton Operatic Society give their production the right amount of tongue-in-cheek hilarity for a comic success.’ It begs the question - did the critic actually watch all of the show?

The Committee turned to Philippa Taylor to direct Iolanthe and she was very keen to publicise the Maskers; she was billed in the programme as Philippa Taylor (Masker’s Theatre Company). Paul Spanton did not take the opportunity to advertise his other musical group (the Philharmonic) and was content for just his name and ‘Musical Director’ to appear. Rehearsals began at St John’s School in Bugle Street but, when its prices were dramatically increased, the action moved to the Gregg School in Wynn Road. Their hall was on the small size and contained a tiny stage which, somehow, the company utilised to run the show.

There was a Scottish theme to the production and four members from the Junior Section (Neill Mackay, Carla Denney, Fran Taylor and Sophie Wrighton) appeared as Gillies. The rest of the cast was a mixture of stalwarts and promising newcomers – very much in the latter category was Richard Wilkin, a talented tenor who played Strephon, and Christina Smith (a lively Celia), whilst Angela Mackie (Fairy Queen), Alison Vincent (Iolanthe) and Lorraine Morgan (Phyllis) had only a handful of previous shows between them. Amongst the more familiar faces were Philip de Grouchy (Lord Chancellor), David Jupp (Mountararat), Christopher Milne (Tolloller), Anita James (Celia), Carol Wilde (Fleta) and Tony Austin (Private Willis) – Sam Sly and Molly Gibson also played cameo roles as a Nurse and Maid respectively. 

Liberal Counsellor Margaret Singerman was so impressed by Tony’s portrayal of Private Willis that she arranged for him (complete with a Guard’s uniform) to sing an adapted version of When All Night Long at her Mayor Making Ceremony.

In her Secretary’s report, Hazel Killham recorded, ‘The Society put on a sparkling and innovative production of Iolanthe. The show was very amusing with imaginative costumes and lighting. The strong cast enjoyed frolicking with (and as) fairies and the show was well received by the public and even made a small profit.’

Amateur groups always hope for a good review in the local paper in the anticipation that it could tempt the undecided to buy tickets. SOS obviously did not receive a lot of help in this direction but Iolanthe still made a profit of £1572 - which is really very good for a summer show. Possibly a review that does not mention a single performer is the most effective publicity?

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of David J 

The only 'action photo' of this production in the archives! David Jupp (Earl of Mountararat) with Christopher Milne (Earl Tolloller) directly behind him. Christina Smith (Celia/Head Girl), Sam Sly (Nurse) and Molly Gibson (Maid) also feature


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