Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
The Guildhall,
March 1965
Cast List
The Lord Chancellor
Earl of Mountararat
Earl Tolloller
Private Willis
Queen of the Fairies

Notes on this performance

38. Iolanthe

Too many old fairies…

At the AGM Dougie Huggins championed performing one of the lesser-known operas for 1965, specifically Utopia Ltd. or The Sorcerer (neither of which had featured in the SAOS repertoire previously), but his suggestion was dismissed and the Committee opted for the better known Iolanthe. Bert Clague and D Cecil Williams were again entrusted with the project, though the latter and his assistant were requested to attend production rehearsals more frequently ‘in order that the music should not lag behind’- according to some members of the company, the MD showed more enthusiasm in teaching the ladies their notes then he did the men.

In the 1950 production of Iolanthe, John A Edwards had insisted that the ladies’ chorus should be limited to 24 and there were echoes of this for the 1965 version. It was agreed that the Chairman would suggest at the AGM that ‘some of the ladies might wish to withdraw from the production in order to make room for younger performers’ – it isn’t recorded how this suggestion was received but the Committee did later veto a subsequent idea of having some of the fairies singing off stage. There were, however, eight resignations from the women that year and, even after accepting six ‘new girls’, the final ladies’ chorus still only numbered twenty.

One of the newcomers was Jill Meager, who must have really impressed as she was awarded the part of Phyllis. The Casting Committee received some criticism over their verdict and were informed that ‘the producer and Musical Director should make the final decision as they are responsible for the opera, but they are asked to bear in mind that new members should not normally be cast in major parts during their first year of membership.’  The chorus for this show featured several names that would be very familiar to the recent membership - Myra Chilvers, June Greenwood, Clare Minns, Sally Thompson, Shirley Young (Harris), Jim Chilvers, Bob Gibson, Dougie Huggins and Dennis Watson. The regular principals dominated the cast list, including Tom Judd (Chancellor), Bernard Harman (Mountararat) and John Hoskins (Tolloller).

Meanwhile, a sub-committee had been formed to consider the Gaumont (the forerunner of the Mayflower) and the Nuffield as possible future venues. Both were thought to be uneconomical to hire, added to which the former was thought too big and the latter too small to stage SAOS productions. An invitation to join up with The Esso Operatic Society to perform The Yeomen of the Guard at Beaulieu Abbey in the summer fell through due to ‘financial reasons’

After the disappointment of the previous year, Iolanthe sold comparatively well and showed a profit of £92 5s 6d (£92.28). The Society felt able to donate £80 of that to charity, sharing it between the Mayor’s Appeal, the Freedom from Hunger Campaign, the Multiple Sclerosis Fund and the Southampton Samaritans. 1965 was also notable as long standing member, Miss Edith Evans, was awarded the MBE. Sadly it also marked the death of George W Mitchell who had been the Hon Producer of ten shows between 1930 and 1939.

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Tom and Pam

Tom Judd (The Lord Chancellor) with Pam Hoskins (Iolanthe)

Photo of Fairies

Mary Collar (Queen of the Fairies) with her subjects. Standing: Myra Chilvers, ?, Jacqueline Humby, ?, June Greenwood, Denise Marshall, Barbara Wotton, Cynthia Newman, ?, Christine Cook, Clare Minns, Margaret Lawrence, ?, ?. Seated: Sally Thompson, Joyce Warr, Ailie Brotchie (Celia), Anne Moss? (Leila), Mary Collar (Queen), Pamela Waters? (Fleta), ?, Sheila Waldron