Princess Ida, or Gilbert and Sullivan meets Germaine Greer.Queanbeyan Players at Queanbeyan Bicentennial Centre, September 19-21 and 26-28, 1996. Amateur.
The astronomer Mary Whitney wrote in 1882: "We are forced to admit that in spite of the wonderful enlightenment of opinion which the last half century has produced in the public mind in reference to women's ability and position, there is still considerable unreadiness to believe that in the higher professions she either can make or will make herself as proficient as a man."
Princess Ida appeared in 1884. She is the daughter of a king who likes nothing but grumbling and insulting people; sister of three stupid war-mongering brothers; betrothed at the age of one to Hilarion, son of another war obsessed king. No wonder she takes 100 intellectually brilliant women into her women-only institution of higher learning.
It was a bold move to update the setting to something like the 1960s, and it was the right thing to do. Mind you, I'm sure Germaine Greer of The Female Eunuch would have found G&S's final argument hard to stomach: Princess Ida has to admit that marriage to men is necessary to propagate the species, though she at least threatens that if Hilarion doesn't treat her properly she will retire once more to her Castle Adamant.
It's hard not to have stars in G&S, and certainly Amanda Stevenson stands out as Ida in singing and acting (culminating in an affecting solo in I Built Upon a Rock), but the production has a well-balanced cast which kept the show moving on the opening night. Timing will settle in as the singers find their way around the remarkable acoustics of the Bicentennial Centre. The orchestra was competent with lively conducting by Geoff Smith. Perhaps two highlights for me were the chorus singing, which always had strength and the necessary G&S vitality, and the clarity of characterisation by Bill Lord as King Gama.
G&S, in the English satirical tradition, maintain all the elements of the romantic form, but on the way create some serious criticism of social issues. I also find their playing with the musical forms of romantic opera amusing and impressive. They can do Verdi or Puccini better than the originals. Queanbeyan Players provide all that is required for an enjoyable evening, making fun of over-seriousness today just as G&S did more than a century ago.© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
Return to Frank McKone'sHome Page