Review: Iolanthe, SUSU Light Opera Society


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.

  • 6

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.


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  1. This is possibly one of the least professional reviews I have ever read. I thought The Edge encouraged a high standard of journalism, not this snide tripe.

    This feels like Josh is attempting to mimic Caitlin’s style with none of the flair or intelligence. Although may be due to an ongoing bitterness due to not being cast.

  2. Great punk fairies on

    As far as I know no-one involved in the aesthetic or set design of Iolanthe even saw Rent. Actually, I reckon they managed to get through the whole process without once thinking they needed to copy off of Showstoppers, amazing as that might seem.

  3. Might I suggest getting your eyes checked, as the audience have been actually gasping at the UV effects and talking about them after the show.

  4. Ah yes, I’m afraid to say that the problem of diction was probably my fault. You see, back when I wrote the lyrics in 1882, I decided to have the different choruses singing different lyrics at the same time, which unfortunately makes it sound muddled at times. However, I think these guys did a great job! Loved the gender-swapping idea by the way… Wish I’d thought of that!

  5. Horse and Hound on

    I am disappointed that the author has failed to comment on the lack of horses and hounds in this production. Despite this small error on the directors’ behalf, and the fact that we here at Horse and Hound are not actually theatre critics, I felt these guys did a splendid job. I wish I was a punk fairy now.

  6. The Ghost of the Savoy Theatre on

    Oh, I actually thought that the use of UV throughout the show was perfectly sufficient… I can see why they said about the UV on all their posters!

  7. I am genuinely disappointed by the editor’s decision to publish this ‘review’. I use the term loosely as the above text is a blatant attempt by the author to discredit a show which has been spoken about in the highest regard by all who saw it. LOpSoc’s Iolanthe brought to the fore important questions about the British legislative process and these questions were only made more poignant by the decision to gender swap the performance and move the operetta’s historical backdrop, as a result the audience found themselves laughing at a system which was being mocked in the 1890s and yet it is still in place today and the gender swap proved tasteful and in no way crass. As a result of the caustic polemic above I feel like the impartiality of the author should be looked into at an absolute minimum. If this piece was written under my supervision, I would suspend the author from further writing, issue apologies and look closely into writers in the future with no vested interest in denouncing certain societies whilst ensuring the exaltation of his own projects.

    • Natalie Fordham on

      The role of the editor is purely to edit the review we receive. We allow our writers freedom of speech and do not edit their opinion as that would not be honest. All our reviews are produced by a single author to promote honest opinion that isn’t restricted. I apologise if you were offended but this is a single opinion and is not upheld by The Edge as a whole. We encourage all our writers to write honestly and provide reasoning.

  8. Rebecca Rothwell on

    I understand this review is the reviewers opinion, indeed it is his right as a reviewer to share his views for the benefit of others. But this seems downright bitter and twisted. Does Josh Cox have a grudge? Maybe he could have said a couple of the scenes dragged a little or the speed of line delivery could have been tighter – but no. He named and shamed individuals and they’re probably still hiding behind the sofa now.
    Remember this was as an amateur production on a shoestring budget and the result was a fantastic and enjoyable show. Sure, maybe it could have had more polishing and the acoustics of the annex are poor which doesn’t help. But this is also an amateur publication and this guy should remember he isn’t Lyn Gardner writing for The Guardian, and that his opinion isn’t actually worth that much. I doubt he’ll ever review and be taken seriously again, not with his own name anyway! Poor form.

  9. Rebecca Rothwell on

    Nonsense. The role of an editor is to use his/her discretion, discrimination and butchering block to hack off, buff up and streamline material to a state fit-for-public-consumption. #FAIL

    • True, but given that The Edge functions as a student group as well as a publication we do our best to make sure that wherever possible, writers get their work published. We do not pay or screen our writers, so to ask them to write at a professional standard straight away would be ridiculous – what we can do is work with them to improve over their time writing for us. I can assure you that this has been edited, but only to a point that it is still recognisable as the writer’s own work, otherwise what’s the point?

  10. Simon Cowell on

    Could Josh Cox define harmony and explain how it was altered? Could he tell the difference between a clarinet, an oboe, his own vocal chords, and a banana?

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