Thursday, 1 March 2018

Iolanthe, Coliseum

A Cal McCrystal opera. Well, given that we had to leave One Man Two Guv'nors early having exhausted ourselves laughing in the first half, this conflagration demanded a viewing.

It's worth it alright. This Iolanthe from ENO is colourful and detailed (a tremendous final flourish from the late Paul Brown), with an extra proscenium and illustrated wing flats actually opening the theatrical experience out to the audience rather than presenting further 'fourth walls'... though part of this outreach to the audience was set in motion at the beginning by the actor Clive Mantle, who comes on in the guise of an Edwardian health & safety fireman to gentle rib the audience, introduce and then joke with the conductor (Timothy Henty) as well as popping up occasionally to extinguish sundry on stage pyrotechnics.

It's possible to argue that the music isn't always trusted to carry the show, with exhaustive pursuit of gags during lyrical moments - but then, what director hasn't tried to inject Handelian da capos with some fresh stage action? The chorus is in its element with almost every single individual essaying their own character in any available sliver of space (recurring jokes include the Screamer, the Repeater, the Drunk Lord, the Fopp) and in a fine supporting cast of animals of various states of animation, there's some excellent, understated work with a puppet dog.

And there's wire work.

And acrobatics...

... you get the idea. I might add that the principal singing is really rather good too, from the impeccable patter of Andrew Shore's Lord Chancellor to Ellie Laugharne's canny Phyllis and

And juggling

... and Bens Johnson & McAteer. We the audience also had a chance to sing but I wouldn't want to end on a damp note, which we can leave to the weather that put very few off an entertaining evening in St Martin's Lane.

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