OUR CAPTIOUS CRITIC. "IOLANTHE" AT THE SAVOY THEATRE.
The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 1901 December 21 61(1475): 621
this article also includes 8 cartoons

    I SAW the revived Iolanthe last week with a great deal of pleasure and with something of hope as well. There was a full house, mainly composed of nice people, showing that there is still a public which can appreciate music that is not claptrap, and writing in which satire and humour do not offend good taste. There were a few persons in the house who, with hands too hard and energy too obvious, applauded certain points in the performance and certain performers responsible for them in a manner too much their own. But the success of the representation was altogether superior to this; and it is perhaps a pity that through the concessions of the conductor to these frantic encorists, the flow of the piece was occasionally interrupted and the interest put aside. The consequence of unnecessary and irritating repetitions on the evening of our visit was that the representation was not over at 11.20, when we were compelled to leave; and I would suggest that if this sort of thing to the bitter end must be insisted upon, Iolanthe should begin half an hour earlier, even to the surrender of the opening operetta, The Willow Pattern. This production of Messrs. Basil Hood and Cecil Cook is rather a dull affair, in which no one but the costumier and scenic artist has specially distinguished himself or herself. Certainly no one on the stage has had any particular opportunity for doing so; but Mr. Rous, who for a while pretends to be an idol, might undoubtedly make more fun by being more idol-like. It was as though one were wafted into another sphere to find one's self once again in presence of a Gilbert-Sullivan revival of the period when both author and composer were at their best, or so nearly at their best as to make their better doubtful. What a contrast the dainty grace, the piquancy, the humour, the tenderness, the vigour not all of the drum of the musician; the satire, wisdom, observation, quaintness, point, and fluency of the polished writer of dialogue and verse what a contrast to the stuff in vogue, which becomes pretty nearly rubbish in comparison! Again, what a difference in the chorus as personally instructed in chief, I take it, by the author himself, and the chorus as we have latterly learnt to expect it! At the Savoy, every supernumerary is an actor, contributing individually to some general effect; elsewhere he is a mere machine, part of a bigger machine working with the fuss and uncertainty of a motor, and all the shakiness and worrying noise of one. It is worth the money that one pays to see Iolanthe if only to follow the performance of its delightful fairies and admirable peers with the feeling that one is not witnessing a St. Vitus's dance to music, and that in the whole of the ensembles there is not a single headache. With regard to the performances of the principals i am not going to make comparisons between them and their originals. I could not, after these many years, do so usefully if I tried. It is much easier to talk of past performers than to recall more than general impressions. Mr. Walter Passmore is the present Lord Chancellor, Mr. George Grossmith having been the first. Mr. Passmore acts with earnestness, as he always does, and dances with agility, and vastly pleases his very considerable following of ardent admirers. I did not myself care much for his singing of the Lord Chancellor's patter music, or for his reading of the part from the point of view of any particular association with the judicial premiership. In short perhaps Mr. Passmore's acting is too subtle for me I did not find his elderly lawyer tempted by love and restrained by duty or appearance to have any special distinctiveness as a legal type. Miss Brandram as the Fairy Queen is in her old place, and gloriously revives the traditions of the part and the spirit of the school of performers who found fame side by side with author and composer. Miss Brandram's singing of the Fairy Queen's famous air is a very triumph for the artist and the song. Miss Louie Pounds, with not as much to do as she could do well in the character of Iolanthe, acts and sings charmingly could not be more graceful or more attractive. Miss Isabel Jay as the Arcadian Shepherdess the Ward of Court parted for awhile from the rustic Strephon to be engaged simultaneously to the two earls is bright and intelligent. It would be impossible for any actress to make the story clearer, and in this sense her performance is worthy of all the nice things to say of it. But I am not so sure that some of her vocal numbers, cleverly rendered as they are, are as well suited as they might be to enable her to do justice to the more sympathetic qualities of her voice. The rival earls, friendly contestants for the smiles of Phyllis, are represented satisfactorily by Mr. Pinder and Mr. Evett; Mr. Crompton making much of the stolid sentinel. As the Strephon Mr. Lytton, who follows Mr. Temple, has many quaint speeches to make, and mainly makes the most of them. Strephon is half immortal and half mortal, mortal from the waist down, and a good deal is made of this in the dialogue, and has to be made carefully. Mr. Lytton succeeds in this, and as a lover acts and sings efficiently, but he should always make love looking at the lady and not at the audience. Miss Fraser, Miss Agnew, and Miss Hart Dyke are the three principal fairies acting with vivacity. The scenery is bright, and the dresses are brilliant
 
 


 

transcribed by Helga J. Perry, 22 April 2003