Iolanthe - 2003

 

Iolanthe, a fairy, banished years ago by the Fairy Queen for the crime of marrying a mortal has been pardoned, and her colleagues are gathering to welcome her back.

She meets her son Strephon, a shepherd, who, because his father was a mortal is in a somewhat curious physical condition. He is half fairy (down to the waist) and half mortal. It doesn't seem to worry him and he greets his mother affectionately.

Next we meet Phyllis who is in love with Strephon, but doesn't know his secret. The tryst is interrupted by the March and Entrance of Peers, Members of the House of Lords our for a picnic. With them is their leader , the Lord Chancellor, England's premier jurist, who complains that as the guardian of Wards in Chancery he cannot marry the one of them with whom he is most smitten, to whit, Phyllis. Smitten likewise are the two noble Lords, the Earls Mountararat and Tolloller.

A further complication arises when Phyllis and the Peers see Strephon and Iolanthe embracing. When questioned, Strephon replies quite openly that 'the lady is my mother'. Doubt is expressed by all because ' she is seventeen and he is five-and-twenty'. Stephon neglects to explain that as Iolanthe is a fairy she cannot grow old.

The Fairy Queen, fed up with  all this, throws another spanner in the works by ruling that henceforth, all members of the House of Lords will have to pass a stiff entrance examination. The shock is terrible because, as Lord Mountararat says with becoming modesty '...if there is an institution in Great Britain which is not susceptible on any improvement at all, it is the House of Peers.'. And, horror of horrors! If the noble Lords would find and entrance test difficult, what would become of the lowlier folk who wish to enter the Commons?

Chris Kearney