All Male Fairy Story Thrills Audience

Sasha Regan’s All Male

Iolanthe

Theatre Severn

19th July -21 July (Saturday Matinee 2.30pm)

Well it would appear that Sasha Regan’s all male cast have done it again. After delighting Shrewsbury audiences a couple of years ago with HMS Pinnafore they have returned with Iolanthe. It is a theatrical delight.

If you can imagine Iolanthe being predominately a love story it is hilarious to see the characterisation of the female roles, all of course played by men.. However it is also very easy to forget that they are not woman or Fairies (as they are in Iolanthe)as the singing, movement and gesture are all as they should be in a mixed gender cast. If Sasha Regan uses all male merely aiming for comedy value, it hits a bullseye every time, but maybe her message is deeper. Gilbert and Sullivan are hilarious and the voices and timbre seems more important than the vessel the beautiful voice came from. Consequently in our free and flowing times if a man is to play a coquettish young fairy girl so be it. Listen to the voice.

There are voices of every range from Castrato Soprano, reminiscent of the days of the Eunuch, straight through to bass and baritone, and everything in between. If the cast are nothing else they are a stable of amazing voices. But of course, they are much more than that. They are a stable of geniuses.

Iolanthe is a love story between fairies and mortals and the terribly confusing results that ensue when such hopeless relationships arise. For example Strephron, so beautifully sung by Richard Cardson, is the love child of Iolanthe and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Sadly his top half is fairy and his bottom half is mortal. He is afraid his legs might commit a crime with which his top half has no control over. It is the daftness of the predicament that Regan is able to illuminate so wonderfully with her incredibly talented cast.

One isn’t aware of anyone else who is exploring and working in this genre and if there is they have a long way to go to get anywhere near the brilliance of this amazing troupe.

Is it a night of transvestism by any other name? isn’t it too far a stretch to accept these men as woman and more so as fairies?  These are some of the questions that you would imagine would present themselves at such an evening if you didn’t know what was going on. It is interesting to say the least, to see theatres operating the true Shakespearean convention of not allowing woman on stage at all. In those days it was illegal to allow a woman to act and all the parts were played by men.

This company are able to show you how enthralling, engaging and estimable it can be to suspend one’s belief and go with total commitment and discover that this is just an unimaginable joy.

The narrative is also an allegorical look at Victorian politics and shows both sides Tories and Liberals scrapping it out and bending rules for themselves and their own well-being. So really, bearing in mind this was premiered in the 1870’s, It is remarkable to see there is no change at the top as they all tried to push each other from the trough so they and their own can get the Lion’s share.

Richard Russell Edwards as the Fairy Queen was totally believable mannerisms and characteristics were remarkable and that is before we even look at his soprano voice. Just amazing.  Joe Henry as Phillis really found something rather special and again through gesture and movement the character is there. And she is so adorable as she makes her way through her early years trying to be hands off with all the man that want to be hands on. She does in the end get her man Strephon and everything is fine. One can-not help being blown away by Christopher Finn, his Iolanthe had depth, intrigue and magic. An extraordinary  array of brilliant performers is the heart of a good company. This company must be the best.

It is a veritable feast of magic, the lights, the dry ice and even the mood were just right. The audience laughed when they should, were reflective when expected to be and utterly entertained. In fact one imagines the latter must be right at the top of Sasha Regan’s list as she plans and puts on more of these shows.

There was an incredible coming together of Richard Baker’s wonderful music played so expertly on the concert grand, Sasha Regan’s sensitive and precision directing and Mark Smith’s stunning choreography. When one sees this show you become aware of the perfect storm. Everything is working so tightly together that there is no way this show can fail at any level, it has every base skilfully covered. If you have a few bob spare and want an absolute hoot of a time one might suggest that you go and see this one. It runs until Saturday with a matinee on Saturday afternoon too. 

This is a Five Star Review.

Owen J.Lewis

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet. Follow hos blogspot at https://owenscribblerlewis.blogspot.com

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