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ENO Iolanthe


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We went last night. The show has had a surprisingly wide range of critical responses: I've seen everything from a sulky two stars to a total rave which I'm copying at the end. So what was our (group of four) consensus view?


* Iolanthe is a fab work, as good as G&S ever gets, and one should be dancing on air by the end - yet somehow none of us was, despite much enjoyment.


* The orchestra did very well and consistently pointed up musical aspects usually unheard. The conductor is credited as the co-editor of a new critical historical edition of the score, an effort with many attractive new details but which leaves the first half far longer than any of us can remember, perhaps too long (given that most of the slam dunk numbers are in the just about perfect second half). 


* The show looks gorgeous (not often the case at the ENO these days) and most of the gags should eventually be funny, given some editing, stronger casting in minor roles (comedy is more skilled work than some of the cast understand), more confident pacing and  probably more rehearsal time, perhaps under staff directors released from the anxiety of just getting the show on to the stage (a small miracle these days, given the desperate state the ENO operation is in).


* Diction (apart from a couple of the leads) needs a lot of help. I don't remember that ever being the case with ENO Mikado so - just a theory - the hollowing out of the company over recent years may mean there is not the same level of help/training available. This is a real issue: Iolanthe was written for a much smaller theatre; there is a lot of dialogue (little of which we could hear properly); and everyone knows G&S needs the miracles of what Gilbert wrote to come across clearly and easily. Someone get word to the production, asap please, as they could all try harder. Andrew Shore, an impeccable (as well as susceptible) Chacellor, was last night one of very few cast members who knew how to handle the demands of the enormous theatre.


* All in all, we wish this show well and hope it settles down to being a much needed great success for the ENO (it was not full last night, so look out for discounted ticket offers). Perhaps a revival will take a tougher view of the new critical edition; cast stronger comedians (but I hope Andrew Shore goes on for ever); demand better diction; and generally smooth things out. It deserves to run for years.


Now for the view of one of our most discerning music critics, who attended what by all accounts was a riotous (indulgent?) first night:





Edited by Geoff
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My wife and I saw the matinee a week ago and were hugely disappointed.The humour was generally on cringe schoolboy humour level and interferred on many occasions with the singing.The pre act introductions from the totally unnecessary Captain Shaw were embarrassingly amateurish.....the designs were colourful.Diction was as you said,I got the feeling the cast were still struggling with all the business most of which was unnecessary.......the conducting lacked sparkle and not a single musical number really took off.We saw a far more enjoyable production at last year’s Harrogate Festival by an amateur group.How much did that blessed train in Act 1 Cost???sorry will stop now but have calmed down since last week !

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On 24 February 2018 at 08:07, Geoff said:

* Diction (apart from a couple of the leads) needs a lot of help. I don't remember that ever being the case with ENO Mikado so - just a theory - the hollowing out of the company over recent years may mean there is not the same level of help/training available.


I may need to revise this point:  a singer tonight told me the ENO still carries that sort of support staff.  If so then they aren't doing much of a good job, at least not so far as this Iolanthe cast.

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I saw this production on the evening of Saturday 17th February.  There were bits of it I really liked, but I was quite disappointed on the whole.  I am delighted that, with the demise of D'Oyly Carte, someone is keeping the G&S flag flying and the heritage alive, but I hope it doesn't continue in this vein.  We were sitting in the balcony and, like Geoff, couldn't hear anything.  I couldn't hear any of the talking, and even much of the singing was muffled and we really had to strain to hear.  Couldn't they have provided a couple of mics for those of us in the higher levels?!  It didn't help that we were sitting just in front of a large group of students who must have been from the same musical theatre school as one of those on stage, and they guffawed very loudly any time anyone moved.  It was very offputting, and I heard someone complaining to the usher about it during the interval.  I am always very pleased to see young people enjoying these types of things, but that was a bit exaggerated!


I also thought that many of the jokes were like those you'd find in a bad am dram company.  Very obvious, and some quite smutty, and totally unnecessary, although it seems that that is what the audiences expect and appreciate these days.  There was a pantomime horse that came on the stage at one point, and I whispered to my hubby "I bet you anything that horse poops on the floor."  Right on cue, that's just what the horse did.  Hysterical laughter all round.  Why?  


For me, G&S are so very witty and clever and satirical:  you don't need to add smutty jokes and gags to make them interesting or relevant to today .  Although there was much to enjoy here, the experience as a whole kind of depressed me.  I wish it had been like Pirates of Penzance last year;  I loved it and came out feeling happy and uplifted.  

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