Reviewed by: Sue Dupont on Friday 6 May 2011
Venue: Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich
Type of Production: Gilbert & Sullivan
Producer/Director: Trevor Thurston
Musical Director: Stella Brownsea

In the expert hands of Trevor Thurston and Stella Brownsea, this was a hand-picked dream team of principals who were perfect for every role, the strength of this cast showed the best of G&S in Norfolk. The orchestra had top marks in not overpowering the sound balance and we heard every single word to perfection without missing a syllable (and no radio mikes!), so important not to miss the wit of Gilbert and enjoy the tuneful cadences of Sullivan. Add to this dream team a lively and tuneful band of attractive fairies and the stately robed members of the House of Lords all in strong voice, the sound from the stage to be envied by several other groups.

The young lovers Phyllis (Gennie Plunkett) and Strephon (Tom Corfield) were ideally paired in age and looks and voices, so very credible in their actions and a delight to watch in their Arcadian love affair. We know that Gennie is a G&S fanatic and this portrayal and singing and youth just made one pleased to be part of the audience to appreciate her. What strength in rivalry, in stature, and in notes with excellent portrayals of Earls Mountararat and Tolloller: Steve Holmes with ‘Blue Blood’ and Mark Horner with ‘When Britain Ruled’ were superb, ideally matched, and a joy for all to hear, plus the teamwork and mobile comic turns when involved with the Lord Chancellor. Alan Weyman (as the Chancellor) must be all that Gilbert and Sullivan could have hoped and prayed for in the role with his exacting and perfectionist diction and delivery, the voice more often heard singing opera, the superb timing and comedy, the nimble feet in dance, and the whole look of authority and yet complaisant devilry as he pleaded his cause to himself, and just loved his teddy bear!

Pamela Warren returned to ENOS for her favourite of roles, Queen of the Fairies, and how impressive her presence, the quality of the singing of golden notes, and her style and majesty and personality throughout, certainly a magic performance. And in the title role, Margaret Collingwood as Iolanthe had the audience in thrall with her explanations, singing, and contribution to the story, but her moment came when that ballad ‘a suppliant at your feet’ in Act 2 just stopped the production with the quality of singing, more than a very special magical moment and no place in the score for the deserved applause. I am sorry not to have seen Robin Richardson as Private Willis and do hope that he is recovering from his ‘scenery mishap’, however Trevor made an excellent understudy and was in good voice and presence.

This cast was not just strong but well balanced and complimentary one to another in all aspects of performance. And what can one say of the settings except magnificent on that stage! The Arcadian Landscape complete with woodland grove and upper level, lake and functioning water feature, was a delight for Act 1. And then the interval descent on the stage by the ‘team’ armed with screwdrivers to dismantle and rebuild that imposing and magnificent Palace of Westminster for Act 2; a triumph of design, build and paint.

Sue du Pont - NODA