Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
The Guildhall,
March 1980
Director: Pam Hoskins
Cast List
The Lord Chancellor
Earl of Mountararat
Earl Tolloller
Private Willis
Queen of the Fairies
Lord Chancellor's Attendant
Second Sentry

Notes on this performance

53. Iolanthe                                                                                                                                                                 

No elderly fairies, please …

Iolanthe always seems to cause problems with the ladies’ chorus. In 1950 and 1965, the producers were keen to limit the number of fairies on stage and in 1980, Pamela Hoskins felt it ‘desirable to have as young a ladies’ chorus as possible’, consequently it was suggested that ‘certain members’ stood down for this production. Rather surprisingly there were seven volunteers to do that but the Producer and MD (again Peter Robson) requested (successfully) that another lady was ‘stood down’.

A letter was written to Larry Grayson at the BBC, in the hopes that the men’s chorus performing ‘The Entry of the Peers’ might be featured on The Generation Game – their reply indicated that it was ‘filed for future consideration’. Another idea was to include a ‘Flying Ballet’ in the show but fixing the necessary equipment would cost £65 and the necessary insurance coverage was not very clear. However, Radio Solent did broadcast a tape of The Pirates of Penzance on Boxing Day, which was good publicity for the Society, and it was agreed to both record and videotape Iolanthe.  

Pam Hoskins knew how to catch the eye in her productions and, although still very traditional, they always contained the element of surprise. Under the headline ‘Another Society Triumph’ the Echo reviewer mentioned that, ‘Several original touches have been introduced, notably a special fanfare from the auditorium heralding the stately entry of the peers – the presence of two sentries (plus their boxes) in the foyer and a sentry on stage throughout the interval.’ Returning to the performers, he added, ‘Jill Charnley was outstanding as Phyllis, the Arcadian Shepherdess with a lively personality and assured vocal technique. Colin Sly’s Strephon also carried conviction and together they made a complementary pair. 

In a class by himself was Philip de Grouchy, the Lord Chancellor, whose crisp delivery greatly assisted the clarity of the patter songs. Earls Tolloller and Mountararat (David Lewis and John Hoskins) were both in good voice. Carol Crisp, Queen of the Fairies, found the tessitura of her part rather on the low side at times and this robbed her portrayal of some authority, while Hazel Kilham in the title role was appealing both vocally and visually. There was no difficulty in hearing Dennis Gooch who, as Private Willis, added a third and topical verse to his song. The Fairies, Celia, Leila and Fleta (Susan Rhodes, Avril Botto and Clare Minns) danced and sang prettily as did all the chorus.’

A critique from the Theatre Guild endorsed much that was written in the Echo and even stated, ‘Amateur was not the word for the production which was of such a high standard that it reached, at times, the professional polish that I look for, but rarely find. Gone were the traditional SOS groupings – particularly the semi-circle with soloists centre. Instead we had intriguing groupings, concerted intricate movements and centre stage was wherever the fertile mind of the producer decided it should be.’

Iolanthe sold as well as Pirates but the overheads were considerably more (costumes and rehearsal costs were both doubled) so a profit of only £110 was recorded.

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Iolanthe

David Lewis (Earl Tolloller), Jillian Charnley (Phyllis), John Hoskins (Earl of Mountararat). seated: Philip de Grouchy (The Lord Chancellor)

Photo of Strephon

Colin Sly (Strephon), Hazel Killham (Iolanthe), John Hoskins (Earl of Mountararat)

 LB books dog

Coming to you in January 2022!