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November 1956

The following review appeared in the Stewartby News in January 1957
Photograph courtesy of The Bedfordshire Times


What a pleasant sight it was to see Sewartby Hall well filled for once! Even though it was a small percentage of Stewartby folk that made up the almost full house on Wednesday, the opening night, it showed that there is still a public for this kind of entertainment. Not even the thick fog that night deterred ticket holders, and the Hall was surrounded by cars and coaches that had braved the elements and Gilbert and Sullivan fans were well rewarded for their journey into the wilds of Stewartby.

This was the fifth production of the Society, but I am afraid, not one of its best. The music as a whole was enjoyable and was well rehearsed and Mr J. F. Pierce, the musical director, worked hard, as did his competent orchestra, but there were fewer catchy tunes than usual. Mr Pierce seemed to have gained more confidence in himself and his players than was apparent on the last occasion and musically everything went with a swing. Incidentally, why not have a centre gangway and so ensure a clear view of the stage for those seated in the centre?

As Gilbert and Sullivan fans will know, this is an opera of Peers and Peris and as such it deals in a lighthearted fashion with mortals and fairies. It is not proposed to go into the intricate plot in any detail here - but the opera abounds in many amusing situations as well as a few tragic ones, but a word about the various characters and the chorus may not be out of place.

Foremost amongst these was Victor Gillett as the Lord Chancellor. Here is a performer whose standing and ability no-one will question. He was the exuberant official which Gilbert insisted upon and certain others in the cast would have done well to emulate him, for he was well deserving of all the applause which came to him.

[Lord] Mountararat and [Lord] Tolloller, as played and sung by Raymond Massey and Brian Adams respectively, were both very well sustained, and the antics of Private Willis, played by Charles Furr, were very well done. His make-up was good too, which is more than can be said of some of the others, but we could have wished that he knew more about 'presenting arms'.

Strephon, an Arcadian shepherd, was well played by Leigh Harris who lost none of the humour of the part, and he has a pleasing voice too. Janet Tysoe, as Queen of the Fairies, was adequate although her make-up was not. She spoke and sang her part with conviction all through, although this is not always a good thing with G & S opera. Monica Perkins in the title role was excellent but considering she had spent 25 years "among the frogs" of a neighbouring pool, she presented a remarkably chic appearance. However, she was very restrained and a good choice for the part.

Janice Doone-Ames, who will be remembered by her maiden name of Janice Freezer, looked good and was good in the part of Phyllis which demands acting as well as singing ability. She has a delightful voice which she used to good effect.

Celia, Leila and Fleta (Margaret Noble, Laura Adams and Hazel Denton respectively) had small speaking parts in which they were quite good - it was the second named who smiled and looked natural - but they should learn to relax. Their singing, however, was admirable. The chorus of peers, which included such old hands as Ian McAlpine, Michael  O'Brien, C. Furr and Peter Shaw, apart from looking somewhat unhappy in their wigs - and in some cases their headgear too - when it came to singing were not afraid to open their mouths and to let things rip, and together with the girl fairies (to whom the same critcism re unsmiling faces also applies) made appropriate noises very pleasant to the ear. The Chancellor's train was kept on the rails by Robin Keep, as the page.

Mr R. H. Budworth, who helped with the production during its final weeks of rehearsal, must be congratulated on his successful efforts in pulling the whole thing together and providing us with a very happy evening. He would be well advised, however, to find someone who is more experienced in stage make-up for the men in the cast, for a more pleasant set of animated gargoyles I have never seen.


If you would like more information on any aspect of the society
• to perform
• to help out
• to see a show
please contact Hazel
phone: 01908 616213

We rehearse and perform in Stewartby. Early rehearsals are held at the church hall, later rehearsals and the performances are at Stewartby Village Hall.

Stewartby United Church Hall
Park Crescent. MK43 9NJ

Stewartby Village Hall
Stewartby Way. MK43 9LX

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