Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
Nuffield Theatre,
June 2003
Cast List
King Hildebrand
King Gama
Princess Ida
Lady Blanche
Lady Psyche
Delivery Driver

Notes on this performance

99. Princess Ida  

G&S and Rock ‘n’ Roll…

For once, the Society found itself with an abundance of potential directors as Gwen Moulster, Phil Cheesman, David Tatnall, Simon Pontin and Richard Peaty were all possible candidates. Finally, the Committee invited Gwen to direct Princess Ida with Richard assisting and Martin Paterson returning as MD. It was also decided to take this show to Buxton for the International G&S Festival in August and then perform a version of it at Beaulieu Abbey in October.

The first rehearsal gave the company a good idea that they were going to be involved in something very different as Choreographer, Gillian Parry, taught everyone how to jive! Gwen’s vision of Ida involved setting it in the 1950s, complete with Teddy Boys and Teenyboppers. For the first time an electric guitar was included in the orchestra, the two Kings, Hildebrand and Gama, were now the unlikely leaders of rival biker gangs and the lyrics were amended to reflect these changes – notably, The rum-tum-tum of the military drum became The brum – brum – brum of a Harley-Davidson!

The Echo reviewer was pleasantly surprised by the changes: ‘This version of a lesser-known Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera has modernised lyrics, 1950s costuming and great style. Simon Pontin is outstanding as Hilarion (a touch of the Fonz or John Travolta?). Excellent characterisations abound – the two kings (David Jupp/David Rayner – Hildebrand/Gama), Hilarion’s friends (Shaun Dodimead/Richard Peaty – Florian/Cyril), Princess Ida (Alison Vincent), Gama’s sons (Mike Pavitt, Paul Webb and Adam Case), the Professors (Barbara Rayner and Lucy Braga) and the students (Jo Short, Christina Fletcher, Nichola McKinley and Sam Sly).

The comedic dialogue and new lyrics are delivered with verve. A large cast mastered Gillian Parry’s choreography so well in a confined space and the orchestra kept the music light and airy, perfect for this opera. No moment in this production is wasted; it is pure entertainment. Set the video for the tennis!’

Even though some cast changes had to be made, the production did well in Buxton (5th place), it was rated as having the Best Animated Chorus whilst David Rayner won a Best Supporting Actor Award. However, the adjudicator doubted whether biker leaders had the authority to execute people and thought the menacing bikers looked more like a group of ‘friendly uncles’. However, a comment on youtube (from an American) showed that some people really appreciated the effort put in: ‘Hopping to Sullivan! The Wild Ones and Bye Bye Birdie meet Princess Ida! Wonderful! Who would ever think anyone could pull this off but you did just brilliantly. Your conductor is just absolutely first rate in his tempi. Please tell me your audiences had as much fun as I did and you obviously did putting this on. Brava and bravo all around!!!’

Although there was a big cast and it was a lively show, Princess Ida did not attract large audiences and, even with the continued support of Marlands, it still made a disappointing loss of £1559.

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Hilarion and Friends

 Shaun Dodimead (Florian), Simon Pontin (Hilarion) and Richard Peaty (Cyril)

ida03 17

Alison Vincent (Princess Ida)

Photo of Psyche

Lucy Braga (Lady Psyche), Richard Peaty (Cyril), Simon Pontin (Hilarion), Shaun Dodimead (Florian)

Photo of Hildebrand

David Jupp (King Hildebrand) with Alison Vincent (Princess Ida)

Photo of Brothers

Alison Vincent (Princess Ida), Adam Case (Scynthius), Mike Pavitt (Arac), Nick Williams (Guron) - deputising for Paul Webb

Photo of Gama

David Rayner (King Gama) with Alison Vincent (Princess Ida)