It's been a while since I updated the blog, but if anything could convince me to start reviewing again it would be Sasha Regan's Iolanthe at the Union Theatre. Following up on Pirates of Penzance, which took London by storm last summer, this is another G&S show that Regan has put her unique all-male spin on, and it's so much the better for it. G&S is hard to do well and companies often stick to old-school costuming or pick an entirely inappropriate setting for their work, but here the charm and subversity of the material shines throughout.
Director Regan and production designer Stewart Charlesworth have created an enchanting world within a world that allows the frequently very silly material to make sense within an intriguingly thought out context, which allows the extremely youthful cast to avoid aging up. Meanwhile, musical director Chris Mundy provides strong support on the piano, keeping the fairies and peers in check with his expressive playing, and there's some intriguing choreography from Mark Smith.
Standout performances include Australian belter Matthew James Willis as Earl Tolloller, whose gorgeous voice rang out powerfully in every scene without overpowering his fellow peers, while Reuben Kaye was perfectly judged as slightly snooty fairy aunt Celia and Kris Manuel produced some very funny moments as the Geordie Fairy Queen. Christopher Finn impressed in the title role, wringing both comedy and almost-tragedy from the role, particularly in one spine-tingling moment in It May Not Be. Alan Richardson as chancery ward Phyllis was also excellent, seeming far more suited to the role than as Mabel in last year's Pirates of Penzance - the notes this man can reach are both shocking and thrilling to hear. Although nerves seemed to mute some vocals a touch, this is surely something that will be resolved as the run continues.
Although Pirates was so utterly perfect at the Union last year that it's hard for another G&S to live up to it, this is definitely one production you should be making time to see, especially since it's only on until 11th December. Sasha Regan has done it again.