First night nerves clearly influenced the cast but they still managed to pull off a solid performance with a great ensemble. Guaranteed to be an enjoyable night by all.
LOpSoc took on the challenge of bringing Iolanthe to the near modern day with a gender-swapped cast, and while I admire their efforts to modernise an otherwise old Gilbert & Sullivan story, it often felt like they tried to do too much in one performance, with jokes often lost and harmonies altered. This is a challenge for any company and it was a solid performance but I left wanting just a little bit more.
The principal cast was made of a host of new faces as well as LOpSoc veterans, with great performances from Barnaby Wilson (Philip), Alex Conway (Fairy King) and Robin Harris (Liam). For me, however, the standout performance came from a member of the ensemble. Charlie Rowen (Peers Chorus) is an absolute joy to watch on stage; her facial expressions and general characterisation were spot on. It would be great to see the rest of the cast perform with her energy. There was one issue with performance, and this is diction. At times the cast’s lack of diction made it even more difficult to hear them over the band, an issue LOpSoc rarely have when performing and it was disappointing to see.
The set was simple, littered with posters reminding me of the SUSU Showstoppers’ RENT set of years gone by. The UV light added a unique touch, although this was a huge publicity point for the production and it was rarely used, often going unnoticed. The second act saw the stage brighten up to look like a British promenade. StageSoc pulled it out the bag with this one, and is some of the best work I have seen in recent years.
The second act is where I was most disappointed, especially after the absolutely fantastic ending to Act One with a great ensemble number, which is where the production was at its best. The issue with Act Two was in part out of the cast’s hands: Act Two isn’t as entertaining as the first, which is a shame. The scene between Lady Mountararat (Jennifer Riggs) and Lady Tolloller (Bridie Strachan) which should be been a barrel of laughs, left me wondering when the scene would finish. I lost a lot of the lines which meant I found myself struggling to understand what was said – which may well be attributed to first night nerves as it is clear these two are first-class performers.
This show came in to its own when the ensemble were on stage: songs were full of energy, often exceeding the loudness of the band and everyone genuinely looked as if they were enjoying themselves on stage. The band lead by Jeremy Hunt sounded strong and conquered the bad acoustics of The Annex.
Choreography was good, and teaching a group of people who I assume have rarely tap danced before a number of tap routines was fantastic – credit must go to Sarah Hemming for her efforts, although I would have looked for opportunities to have the chorus out of tap shoes where possible. Commendation should also be made to Emily Gray, who choreographed some entertaining fairy dances.
This was a good solid peformance from LOpSoc, and it was always going to be hard to compete with last year’s successes. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and believe once the first night nerves have disappeared this production will reach its full potential.