REVIEW: Iolanthe, Chichester Festival Theatre

Chichester Festival Theatre
Chichester Festival Theatre
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For anyone seeking escapism from the political events of the past few days, an evening of Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera might seem to be the perfect answer.

It says something of William Gilbert’s genius, however, that the political satire of Iolanthe is as cutting and relevant today as when it was premiered at the Savoy Theatre in London in 1882. His jovial debunking of the English establishment never goes out of fashion.

A relatively young professional troupe, Tarantara Productions – taking its name from Iolanthe’s famous ‘trumpet song’ – performed the much-loved Savoyard repertoire to the highest standards.

Eschewing the more stylised conventions and temptation to reinvent the genre for the modern audience, their staged version focuses on what people love most about Iolanthe – the music and the humour.

The cast for this production have extensive operatic experience and the on-stage orchestra added to the spectacle, not least Martin Handley’s committed and energetic conducting.

From the ‘tripping hither and thither’ of the fairies to the pompous buffoonery of the lords, the production was pacy and engaging. All credit to Barry Clark as the Lord Chancellor for delivering the tongue-twisting ‘nightmare’ song with speed and aplomb.