The Story

Iolanthe opens with the fairies dancing in their Arcadian glade, celebrating their dainty abilities. However, their rapture is modified when they remember that Iolanthe,their favourite member, was banished from their order and is now serving out a sentence of penal servitude for life, which she has chosen to serve at the bottom of a stream. Their Queen (one of the classic Gilbertian battleaxes) reminds them that, had it not been for her surpassing love, then she would have been sentenced to death. And what was her crime - to marry a mortal! The fairies appeal to the Queen to release Iolanthe, and the Queen eventually agrees.

Iolanthe then introduces her son, Strephon who is only half a fairy (the upper half), since half of him takes after his mortal father. Strephon reveals that he is engaged to be married to Phyllis, a Ward in Chancery but that the Lord Chancellor refuses to let them marry. To help overcome this, the fairies dream up a plot to place Strephon in Parliament as a fairy Member.

The House of Peers are then introduced, and it transpires that the Lord Chancellor himself (as well as most of the House of Peers) also wants to marry Phyllis! The situation appears resolved when Phyllis sees Strephon talking to his mother, who appears only seventeen, and breaks off the engagement to him, deciding to marry a Peer instead. The fairies respond to Strephon's request for help by carrying out their threat to send him to Parliament.

The second act (as is often the case with G&S) sees all this complexity resolved. Phyllis is persuaded that Iolanthe really is Strephon's mother, all the Peers find happiness in new found friends, and everyone lives happily ever after!

The Huntin', Shootin', Fishin' peers are unimpressed by the fairies.
Private Willis laments the activities of the House of Commons ("they've got to leave their brains outside, and vote just as their leaders tell 'em to".
The Queen of the Fairies is suggestive with Private Willis. "How should you like to be a fairy guardsman?".

 Photos by Mike Kwasniak - Ipswich 719002