Iolanthe easy on the ear

Just 25 years ago, G.B. Shaw’s plays were the last word in fashionable heresy. They are almost forgotten now, while the older Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, whose barbs are certainly gentler, but which prod at some of the same venialities, always find an audience.

It is the music which has given the Savoy operas their lifebelt, it is ironic, because Sullivan’s invention was much less fertile than Gilbert’s.

The Bulawayo Light Opera Company’s production of Iolanthe, now running at the Large City Hall is a lot better to listen to than to watch. Clumsy movements and unimaginative grouping do nothing to sustain dramatic interest during two long acts.

But the singing was fine, with no really weak link. Gaye Robertson as Iolanthe was steady and attractive if not always on pitch; Marjorie Hird as Phyllis was assured and personable, and Marion Gray was imperious and dramatically intelligent as Fairy Queen.

Among the men, Clifford Phillips excelled for vivid unselfconscious characterization of the Lord Chancellor, and Basil Sheldon for strong, effective singing. Stuart Dollery made a suitably self-satisfied peer.

Strephon’s youthful naiveties sat awkwardly on Malcolm Mackay’s mature shoulders, though vocally and dramatically he was otherwise acceptable. The orchestra under Hugh Fenn was excellent.

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