Review: Iolanthe, Festival Theatre

The costume design in Iolanthe is very detailed
The costume design in Iolanthe is very detailed
Have your say

The Edinburgh Gilbert and Sullivan Society take to the stage again with their production of one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most celebrated works.


Iolanthe tells the story of a fairy released from her incarceration in a mythical swamp by the Fairy Queen, having been banished there twenty-five years before for committing the sin of marrying a mortal.

Iolanthe’s son, Stephron who is half-fairy, half-mortal, is in love with Phyllis, a ward of the Lord Chancellor. Unfortunately for Stephron, the Lord Chancellor and many of his peers are also in love with the young soprano and he must go to the extreme length of being elected to parliament in order to win her hand.

The production features impressive 2D animation by visual artist, Tom McDermott and seeing the production open with this artwork sets the audience up to experience a modernised interpretation of this 130-year-old piece.

Sadly, this does not transpire and the albeit excellent animation seems to cause a jarring juxtaposition in what is, for the most part, a very traditional G&S production. The addition of some “modern” props such as a McDonald’s fries carton and an inflatable champagne bottle also add to this inconsistent contrast of the traditional and the modern. Ian Sommerville’s very attractive set lends itself to the vast stage and is complemented by a detailed costume design.

The choral work (under the direction of David Lyle) is very strong and the cast delivers the choral numbers with energy.

However, the ensemble staging and movement leave a lot to be desired and, at times, looks clumsy and over- crowded.

Those unfamiliar with the show may find some of the sung text difficult to follow as, at times, the collective diction is lacking.

Ian Lawson’s portrayal of the Lord Chancellor is by far the strongest performance in the production and the undeniably strong voices and supporting performances of Scott Thomson (Mountararat) and Darren Coutts (Tolloller) must also be credited.

However, these performances show up some of the weaknesses in the other principle characters. For Gilbert and Sullivan fans, though, this is a credible offering.

Run ends on Saturday