Sunday, 5 April 2015
Theatre review: Princess Ida
In fact, in a long-forgotten piece of dipolmacy, Ida was married off as a baby to Prince Hilarion (Zac Wancke.) Finding her fled to the mountains, he goes off to convince her not all men are as bad as she's heard.
The 1884 operetta satirises a number of issues that would have been controversial at the time - Darwin is an early target, Gama giving Ida a skewed view of evolution as proof that all men are apes. And the scenes at the all-female college are an obvious comment on women's demands for education and suffrage. But at heart, in Willmott's version at least, Princess Ida is a silly fairytale and a lot of fun.
The central plot point sees Hilarion and two of the other suitors, Princes Cyril (Simeon Oakes) and Florian (Jeremy Lloyd - Hugh Bonneville's Mini-Me,) disguising themselves as women to infiltrate the college. There's enough strong patter songs, funny lyrics and good tunes to make me think Willmott is right to believe it must be the original book that's made this one so obscure.
It's a likeable and energetic production with the music arranged for two pianos and mostly strong voices - a couple of the supporting players had trouble hitting the odd note this afternoon but nothing to derail the show. With the Finborough seeking more transfers to pay for the rent hike this could well be a production with a further life in it (although, unusually for G&S in a small venue, it doesn't seem to have sold out.) If not, I don't see why the playful new libretto (I'm going to take a wild guess the line "terrifying lesbians" doesn't appear in Gilbert's original) shouldn't achieve its goal of bringing Princess Ida back into the repertoire.
Princess Ida by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan is booking until the 18th of April at the Finborough Theatre.
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes including interval.