The law of the fairies
"With a House of Peers composed exclusively of people of intellect, what's to become of the House of Common?" Lord Mountararat asks, revealing that there were controversies surrounding the House of Lords even back in 1882 when the comic operetta Iolanthe was first staged.
The Visakha Vidyalaya Old Girls' Association presents Iolanthe, at the Lionel Wendt from May 10 – 13 at 7.30 p.m. The United Kingdom's Legislative System is the target for Gilbert's wit and satire in this rollicking Gilbert and Sullivan operetta.
Twenty five years ago, before the setting of the opera, the much-loved fairy, Iolanthe married a mortal. Rather than sentence her to death which is the fate of fairies who marry mortals, the Fairy Queen who loves Iolanthe dearly sentences her to lifelong exile, on condition that Iolanthe left her husband and never saw him again.
Meanwhile her son Strephon – a half fairy (a fairy down to the waist and a mortal from there below) falls madly in love with Phyllis, the beautiful ward of the Lord Chancellor. However, Lord Chancellor declares that he himself is in love with Phyllis – leading to a battle between the fancy free fairies and the stuffy lords.
Accomplished director and playwright, Indu Dharmasena has directed the production that presents a vivid contrast between the parliament and the magical land of fairies. Menaka De Fonseka Sahabandu has directed the music featuring particularly noteworthy songs such as Tripping Hither, Tripping Thither – a chorus of the fairies and If You Go In' by the lords and Good morrow and Good mother by Strephon, amongst others. The dance items have been choreographed by Sanwada Abeysirigunawardena.
The cast includes Methma Maliduwapathirana and Ekodi Wickremarachchi as Iolanthe, Pivini Perera and Samadhi Tennekoon as Lord Chancellor, Anushka Gunawardena and Suvini Karunanayake as Queen Fairy, Rochana Cooray and Shacini Mustachi as Strephon and Widya Kumarasinghe and Suhanya Aziz as Phyllis.
A look behind the scenes of the production revealed around 60 enthusiastic students between ages 9 and 18, in lively song and dance sequences while some were practising their dialogues.
Anushka Gunawardena who won the best actress award for two consecutive years plays the domineering queen fairy. "She takes control of the situation in all scenes," the 12th grade student says. Working with the script and doing solo parts was something she has enjoyed immensely.
For Suhanya Aziz this debut as Phyllis has been an amazing experience, enabling her to come out of her shell. Despite half the house of the lords wanting to marry her, she falls intensely in love with a shepherd, so much so that she even feels jealous of his young looking mother.
On two of the days Phyllis is played by Widya Kumarasinghe of Grade 11. "I can relate to her character – a feminine, light hearted person… a bit like me," she laughs. She imagines that she would have fun dressed in the Victorian costume, portraying a modern woman's outlook.
Strephon, the son of Iolanthe is a funny, likeable character played by Rochana Cooray who has previously acted in Spelling of Coins. The half fairy, half mortal is in love with Phyllis. To suit her role she has been practicing to sing and talk in a deeper voice as well as ensuring her gestures are that of a male.
It is the first major drama production for A/L student Shacini Mustachi who has been involved in other ballet and dance productions. As Strephon, “I am bent on winning the heart of the most beautiful maiden in town, Phyllis,” she says. “All of us who have been working hard with Indu have had a great experience.”
The most powerful person in the Parliament is the Lord Chancellor played by Pivini Perera. "He is strict, duty conscious and tough as a Chancellor but soft on the inside," she says. Being her first drama production, it has been an experience she would not forget.
Tickets priced at Rs.300, 500, 750, 1000, 1500 and 2000 are available at the school.