Fairies to the fore in Rose Hill’s latest

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Rose Hill Musical Society’s production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe is to be staged at the Guildhall Theatre in Derby from March 17-21.

Evening performances start at 7.30pm with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm.

This will be the ninth time the society has staged Iolanthe, which is one of the most popular of the Savoy operas. One of those productions marked a major development in the society’s history.

For 25 years since World War II, productions had been staged at the Railway Institute in Siddals Road. Then, in 1970, the decision was taken to refurbish Derby’s Guildhall. The building had stood empty for many years after the Town Council had moved its debating chamber to the newly-built Council House.

The intention was for the venue to be used as “an educational and cultural centre”, with pre-opening publicity describing it as a venue for recitals, lectures, concerts and so on – not forgetting small drama productions”.

This latter phrase alerted Rose Hill members to the possibility of presenting their shows at this new venue. The idea received support from Town Council members, and on April 11, 1971, Rose Hill’s production of Iolanthe became the first show to be staged there. This proved a great success, and 44 years later the society continues to perform at this beautiful example of intimate theatre.

In Iolanthe, Gilbert is aiming his satire at the House of Lords, and although the piece was written over 130 years ago, there are several references which appear contemporary. The Lord Chancellor

clashes with the Fairy Queen who places her nominee, Strephon, into Parliament as a Liberal-Conservative.

The notion of birth being the qualification for membership of the Upper House of Parliament appealed to Gilbert’s sense of the ridiculous, and when the Fairy Queen is upset by the Lord Chancellor’s aggressive attitude she horrifies the peers by threatening that their exalted stations should in future be attainable only by competitive examination.

Following the opening night, one of the songs was cut as its social comment in 1882 was deemed to be out of place in a comic opera. Strephon’s song suggests that circumstance is the only reason for bad behaviour by the underclasses – he himself might have been just as bad if he had had Fagin for a father. Rose Hill are restoring this song, as have a few other amateur societies in recent years.

Iolanthe is directed by Beverley Graham, musical direction is by Margaret Slater, and the orchestra is conducted by Carl Smith. Rose Hill’s cast includes Angela Martin in the title role. Allister

Jordan is the Lord Chancellor and Jayne Brewster Beard the Queen of the Fairies.

Tickets are: Tuesday £11, Wednesday £12, Thursday to Saturday £13, available from Peter Featherstone on 0115 9258717 or by emailing peter.featherstone4@outlook.com