Iolanthe (Ahem…The Fairy Queen!) Re-visited

Fairyland from Iolanthe Well, I’ve packed my bags and moved out of Fairyland. It’s been a bit of a culture shock getting back into the so-called “real world” and I must say it’s a bit over-rated. I am still in post-play exhaustion but no doubt will recover soon.

As a purely self-indulgent exercise I thought I would post a photo-journal of the Queen’s story arc. Yes, I know the play is not about me. But to me it is. What part about MY BLOG are you not understanding?

Act I

Here is where the Queen explains her munificence in commuting Iolanthe’s sentence of death to penal servitude for life…

Fairy Queen, Iolanthe May 2008

Then I’m convinced by my fairy band to summon her from her 25 years of banishment in the stream (she chose the stream, I didn’t).

Iolanthe summoned from her exile

Now that we’ve been re-united with Iolanthe, we discover that Iolanthe had a son by her mortal husband. In a lengthy pre-play exposition we learn that this son is nearing 25 years old, he is an Arcadian Shepherd, and he is in love with the lovely Phyillis, a Ward of Chancery, who he is determined to marry, without getting permission from the Lord Chancellor.  And most interestingly, we learn that he is HALF a fairy. From the head to the waist he is a fairy and from the waist downwards he is a mortal. Let’s meet him.

Here is where I suggest to him that with a fairy brain he should seek an intellectual sphere and perhaps go into Parliament (ah, the seeds are laid).

But with a fairy brain. You should seek an intellectual sphere.

After letting Strephon know that he can call on us if he’s in trouble, we depart for other fairy rings (tripping hither, tripping thither). He very soon takes us up on the offer of assistance when the Lord Chancellor gets wind of his upcoming illicit nuptials and then his intended catches him talking to his mother Iolanthe and mistakes her for “another woman” thus ending their engagement.

So, the fairies come in tripping hither and thither one more time. But the Peers won’t believe that Iolanthe is Strephon’s mother and they won’t believe we’re fairies. So, I threaten them with dire consequences. This moment was great fun…

The first curse in Iolanthe (Act 1 Finale)

Then there is a big build-up of tensions between the Fairies and the Peers ending with a resounding “They will soon, will soon repent!!!!!” Then the Fairy Queen threatens the Lord Chancellor again. (This time with actual thunder.) When he refuses to stand down, I reveal my sinister plot to make Strephon wreak the fairies  vengeance upon the Peers–we’re putting Strephon into Parliament. Then after all the this Wagnerian drama we break into a line dance. Yup, a line dance. Thank you Carol! (Into Parliament he shall go!)

Iolanthe, Act 1 Finale. Into Parliament he shall go.

After this there is a great cursing scene where I reveal all. The gist of it is that, in Parliament, whatever Strephon wants, Strephon gets. “Every bill and every measure, that may gratify his pleasure though your fury it arouses, shall be passed by BOTH your houses” Strephone is now a fairy puppet-dictator. End of Act 1

Act 11

There is much outrage about how Strephon is running the show in Parliament. The fairies are coy about it, the peers are outraged. Then, the fairies start falling in love with the Peers. The Queen discovers them and berates them for their weakness (“We know it’s weakness, but the weakness is so strong!”). Unfortunately, she herself falls for the guard on duty, Private Willis.

Now here is a man whose physical attributes are simply godlike. That man has a most extraordinary effect on me. If I yielded to a natural impulse I should fall down and worship that man. But I mortify this inclination. I wrestle with it and it lies beneath my feet. That is how I treat my regard for that man.

This isn’t a great picture, but it’s such a funny moment, I had to include it. I’m hyper-ventilating at this point. And Private Willis is doing a great job of not laughing.

Private Willis and the Fairy Queen

The Fairy Queen leaves him behind, albeit reluctantly, and sings a song lamenting how her fairy heart is as soft as theirs although she dare not say so.

Oh Foolish Fay

The second verse has a most bizarre turn of events where suddenly a fireman shows up and she sings of “true love kept under.” The background to this is that a Captain Shaw (of the fire brigade) always saw the opening nights of the G&S operettas at the D’Oyley Carte and so on the opening night of Iolanthe, the Fairy Queen sang this directly to him. Now it’s a tradition. It was a little weird. But hey, she just said she had a tendency to fall in love, why not two men in the space of 5 minutes?

Fairy Queen and Captain Shaw

Then, let’s see. Phyllis and Strephon meet again and this time she believes him when he tells her the very young woman she saw him talking tenderly to was his mother, and she finally believes that his mother is a fairy and Strephon a half-fairy. They resolve to marry. Iolanthe says she will plead their case to the Lord Chancellor who wants Phyllis for himself. Despite listening to a heart-rending plea from Iolanthe the Lord Chancellor reveals that Strephon will not be allowed to marry Phyllis because he has given himself permission to Phyllis. Iolanthe then reveals that she is the Lord Chancellor’s wife. This is the marriage for which she was banished all those years ago. Now that her vow is broken once again, the Fairy Queen is left no choice but to execute Iolanthe.

Iolanthe is almost executed

 That is until the other fairies reveal that they also have married mortals. The Fairy Queen is left with a dilemma. Does she execute the whole fairy company? What to do when the law explicitly requires death for every fairy that marries a mortal? The Lord Chancellor steps in to add his legal expertise and determines if we add the word “doesn’t” all will be well. “Let it stand, that every fairy who DOESN’T marry a mortal shall die.” The Fairy Queen, seeing this as her opportunity, agrees and immediately calls for Private Willis who magnanimously agrees to marry her to save her life.

Fairy Queen and Private Willis

So, I ‘knight’ him with my Gandalf and…what’s this?…Wings pop out from between his shoulder blades! I invite the rest of the company to join us and they in turn pop out wings.

Then away we go to Fairyland! And a boisterous Act II finale…

Finale of Iolanthe May 2008 FVGSS

And Curtain!

Thanks to Paddy Tennant for all the great photos.

And now I have to go sit on the couch and watch sitcoms until my brain leaks out my ears.

About Tentative Equinox North

Theatremaker, Homemaker, Thoughtmaker. Great hair, Probably looking forward to my next nap.
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2 Responses to Iolanthe (Ahem…The Fairy Queen!) Re-visited

  1. jamboree says:

    What a wonderful production! I am very excited to perform in my own version of Iolanthe at the end of the year. Congratulations, O Queen! :)

  2. Tentative Equinox North says:

    Thank you! How sweet of you to drop by. It was a wonderful show to be a part of. I think it’s because there’s so much magic in the show that it can’t help but spill over into the cast. I hope you’re able to post some pictures from your production.

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