Princess Ida

GS Fest Gilbert and Sullivan SA 2015G&S Fest. Gilbert and Sullivan Society of SA. Arts Theatre. 2 Apr 2015


Princess Ida came to life on stage in 1884, satirising the great fuss of the time, the Women’s Rights Movement.


How should one react when a Princess locks herself away to run a University for Women, in which students forebear contact with men for all time, sparking war between her petulant, sarcastic father King Gama and father of the boy Hilarion she was betrothed to at birth, King Hildebrand?


Princess Ida disappeared from stages for 38 years, before being revived.


Gilbert’s problematic libretto (largely taken from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem of the same name) offers dialogue in blank verse alongside lyrics in iambic pentameter, yielding patchy, yet at times richly rewarding, character moments which coalesce perfectly with Sullivan’s vibrant, wide ranging musical score.


In short, a bit hit and miss.


Musical Director Peter Deane and Director/Designer David Lampard’s semi-staged production is very smooth moving, decorative and effective. It shows off the best side of Princess Ida; the musical score. This allows forgiving, thoughtful consideration of the libretto’s weaknesses without detracting from fun found in exploring the ‘man versus woman’ core to the work, of which there’s abundance - and ensemble to do justice to the challenge.


If Richard Trevaskis’s King Gama offers the most perfect comically, snide unpleasant character realisation of musical score and libretto in battle with Peter Hopkins’ King Hildebrand, Joanna McWaters perfectly realises Lampard and Deane’s take on Princess Ida as a highly intelligent bare foot, t-shirt and jean-clad warrior princess.


McWaters offers fierce charismatic presence and voice, matching up nicely against James Nicholson’s Hilarion. Nicholson plays the role with the assured air of a well to do, lightly smug toff of honest heart, with romance soaked voice to express it. His boon companions, Florian (Nicolas Perrotta) and amiable Cyril (Beau Sandford), pair perfectly with him.


Amongst Princess Ida’s University world of potential St Trinian style rebel girls, it’s lecturers Lady Psyche (Victoria Coxhill), Lady Blanche (Meran Bow) and her student daughter Melissa (Vanessa Lee Shirley) who provide not only sharp lyrical lines and witty comic stage business but the catalyst, along with the invading men Hilarion, Cyril and Florian, that determines Princess Ida’s fate.


David O’Brien


When: 23 Apr to 2 May 2015

Where: Arts Theatre