Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
Royal Pier Pavilion,
May 1932
Cast List
The Lord Chancellor
Earl of Mountararat
Earl Tolloller
Private Willis
Strephon (a)
Strephon (b)
Trainbearer to Lord Chancellor
Queen of the Fairies (a)
Queen of the Fairies (b)
Iolanthe (a)
Iolanthe (b)
Celia (in rehearsal)
Leila (a)
Leila (b)
Fleta (a)
Fleta (b)
Phyllis (a)
Phyllis (b)

Notes on this performance

9. Iolanthe

Soaked Peers at the pier…

Iolanthe caused the group many problems. Although agreeing to the production, the Committee was not confident that the opera was financially viable so it was decided to start rehearsals and then regularly review the situation. Letters were even sent out to various charities offering to support them as long as they agreed to underwrite the show! An interesting idea but, unsurprisingly, all of them declined the offer…

Rehearsals began in September and five days later a cast was announced (the ladies were again double-cast) and it seems unlikely that any principal auditions took place. In November an Extra-ordinary General Meeting was held to discuss Iolanthe with concerns over the shortage of men in the chorus and the financial position – it was felt by many that the latter could be resolved by replacing it with The Mikado and Mr Parish even offered to guarantee £20 if that happened. However, they voted that they would carry on as planned and review progress again in January.

By the New Year, attendance at rehearsals was down to 53% but five tenors had been recruited! It was decided to continue with Iolanthe and a date was eventually fixed – some members refused to go on the Pier during the winter months so, despite the spring evenings affecting the lighting inside the Pavilion, May was chosen as the best month to perform - partly because the only other production on in town was that of the Denville Players (‘who would not provide much rivalry’) at the Grand Theatre.

It was agreed to have a run of four nights and have two Dress Rehearsals (which would be open to the public at 1/- (5p) for adults and 6d (2.5p) for children) and, to save money, the ladies sharing the principal roles would also have to share costumes. With four weeks to go, it was thought that, as Mr Chew had done so well as an understudy, the part of Strephon would also be double cast – Mr Riddington (the original Strephon) wrote to ‘express his great dissatisfaction’. 

Worse still for Mr Riddington, The Echo reviewed Mr Chew’s Strephon describing him as, ‘An attractive figure, plying a difficult part well, and sang with feeling. He has a most exact ear, and a voice in which there are great possibilities.’ Praise was also given to the Producer / Lord Chancellor, ‘G.W. Mitchell is steeped in the tradition,’ and the MD, ‘The orchestra was well balanced and well led by Mr. C.J. Andrews.’ The new tenors also seem to have been ‘a hit’, ‘The peers’ chorus was beautifully done, and in the make-up of some of them there was a touch of genius. The tenors were in the ascendant for once, and their attack had a thrill in it.’ Lack of space meant that the men had to change in a room near the entrance to the Pier, this was fine until there was torrential rain one evening – the Entry of the Peers was then obscured by clouds of vapour released from their cloaks by the heat of the lights.

The concerns about the finances for Iolanthe were quite unfounded as it made a profit of 4/8d (24p) – just as well the principal ladies shared their costumes!

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Iolanthe

                         Peggy Eric-Parish (Phyllis)                                                       Gladys Gleave (Iolanthe)