Beloved comic opera comes to Royal Wootton Bassett

By Barrie Hudson - 12 May 2022

Arts and Culture

Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe will be performed by Shoestring Opera Royal Wootton Bassett's Memorial Hall on Sunday, 5 June.

The piece sees Strephon, a young shepherd, fall head-over-heels for Phyllis, a shepherdess. This would be an ideal match were it not for the fact that Strephon is only half mortal. 

Other characters, including Strephon’s ever-youthful fairy mother, Iolanthe, and the Lord Chancellor, soon become involved in the marital conundrum. The action switches between scene ‘Arcadia’ and the Palace of Westminster.

Shoestring Opera describes itself as an ad hoc touring company, and director Diana Bickley said: "What better way of spending the early evening of ‘Platinum Jubilee’ Sunday than in the company of Shoestring Opera - a talented and enterprising troupe dedicated to bringing entertaining works of musical theatre to a wide public.

"With ‘Cinderella' by Rossini and Mozart’s ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’ already under their collective belt, the Shoestring gang is eagerly looking forward to presenting one of the best British light operas ever written.

“'Once a fairy / light and airy / married with a mortal…' From this intriguing seed, sown by WS Gilbert in one of his humorous Bab Ballads, grew the plot of the operetta Iolanthe, Gilbert’s seventh collaboration with composer Arthur Sullivan. 

"Iolanthe (the name of the transgressing fairy) became the vehicle for superb music and much witty and satirical comment on British government, law and society – cloaked in a delightful fantasy which features a charming love story, plus the clash of the Lord Chancellor and attendant peers with the Fairy Queen and her tuneful entourage."

Diana has been a working musician all her life, and has connections with Swindon dating back to the 1980s, when she was a music teacher at Churchfields School.

She says it is a special pleasure and privilege to be working on Iolanthe with three of the pupils - Jen Bamford, Julie Hill and Ali Kent - she got to know at this time.

The Shoestring team also has former students of New College, including David Phillips - who is making his directorial debut - and cast members Amy Gerry, Shaun Holley and Tom Mullins (Lord Mountararat).

The performance of Iolanthe on 5 June is set to begin at 5pm, with doors opening 45 minutes beforehand.

Tickets, including a first drink, are priced online at £15 for adults and £5 for under-18s, with a family ticket covering two adults and two under-18s at £35.

Tickets will also be available on the door, priced at £17.50 for adults and £5 for under-18s. 

Further information about the performance and Shoestring Opera can be found at https://www.facebook.com/opera.shoestring.uk/

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