Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
The Guildhall,
March 1958
Cast List
King Hildebrand
King Gama
Princess Ida
Lady Blanche
Lady Psyche

Notes on this performance

31. Princess Ida

Short hair shocker…

It took a long time but SAOS eventually decided to reprise the rarely performed Princess Ida - Tom Judd questioned the wisdom of this but was assured that it was a good opera. Robert Hughes apologised for his absences from committee meetings and offered to resign as Chairman, however it was thought a good idea to provide him with a deputy instead and Bruce Ellery became the Society’s first Vice Chairman.

Alfred Tomalin was approached to direct the show but requested the help of an assistant to take some of the rehearsals and eventually take over from him; it took the Committee seven months to consider this before officially appointing Mary Nobbs as his deputy and successor. D Cecil Williams continued as MD and the pair further pleased the membership by deferring general auditions for another year.

The Southampton Theatre Guild provided a critique that praised in particular the efforts of Tom Judd, John Hoskins, Raymond Harris, Irene Clay, Marjorie Kennedy, Joyce Johnstone and Pamela Fulford but it also focussed on fine detail and was especially critical of the ladies’ chorus who ‘should have concealed the all too prevalent anachronism of short hair.’ However, it was conceded that ‘the girls paid far more attention than the men to what was going on and played up well to situations. The men were less good in this respect, many lost interest when not engaged in the action.’ Some things never change!

Fortunately for the men, the Echo reviewer decided to ignore the efforts of the chorus completely and instead extolled the virtues of the main characters, especially Ida herself: 'I can hardly say what a pleasure it was to see a girl with the razor-edged bearing of regality, grace and untouchable aloofness, playing a royal role. Irene Clay was a magnificent Ida. And there's a fine mature soprano voice to go with it all - although, I must confess, with one exception, the songs on which she exercises it are not particularly endearing to me.'

Other principals also caught his eye and mostly for the right reasons: 'John Hoskins, as that wonderful character Cyril (a sort of Court Billy Bunter), and Raymond  Harris (Florian), the friends of Ida's wooer Prince Hilarion, are really good. Geoffrey Clark, as Hilarion, tended to throw things a bit out of focus. Tom Judd makes a competent King Hildebrand, acting and singing with a meaty aristocratic manner; Fred Tanner whines his way along as King Gama, invoking hate and pity; Marjorie Kennedy, Joyce Johnstone and Pamela Fulford make full use of three excellent cameo parts. Flaming beards hide the real comics of this piece, the sons of Gama, Bernard Harman, Bert Wareham and Robert McKenna. Their Warriors Three routine was near brilliant.'

As anticipated Princess Ida did not sell very well and made a disappointing loss of £147. A donation of £100 was still made to charity and was shared between the International Youth Rally, Friends of South Hants Hospital, Friends of Moorgreen Hospital, the Discharged Prisoners’ Fund and the Mayoral Appeal for the Blind.

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Hilarion

Raymond Harris (Florian), Geoffrey Clark (Hilarion), John Hoskins (Cyril)