The Mitcham County School’s headmaster (1930 – 1952), Alan John DOIG, was an enthusiast for Gilbert & Sullivan, and his Iolanthe production was reported as a ‘remarkable show’ on the front page of the 27th January, 1933 issue of the Mitcham News & Mercury.
Remarkable Show by
The Lord Chancellor – J. P. MacLaren
Earl of Mountararat – A. L. Watts
Earl Tolloller – P. C. Didcock
Private Willis – J. H. Stainforth
Strephon – H. A. Packer
Queen of the Fairies – S. A. R. Rose
Iolanthe – R. Stainforth
Celia – D. Trench
Leila – W. E. Trench
Fleta – V. C. Clark
Phyllis – S. J. Ashby
Chorus of Dukes, Earls, Viscounts and Barons: P. Adams, O. D. Brooks, R. Brown, K. S. Bulbeck, C. C. Creed, R. Cronk, R. C. Gifkins, T. A. Henry, D. A. Lucy. J. S. Seeley, J. Selby, B. Taylor, R. H Watts, E. W. Warner, S. Wilhelm, M. Wilkie, G. Winchester.
Chorus of Fairies: D. Andrews, J. A. Brett, K. F. Campbell, P. B. Chappie, J. H. Cliff, J. F. Courteney, D. P. Curran, C. Hale, Y. S. Hart, C. W. Hollowell, H. R. J?ffs, H. F. Johnson, P. F. Lockyer, L. A. Miller, E. G. Nichols, S.A. Rose, D. F. Mackay, E. W. Sanders, E. Y. Towner, R. O. West, A. White, E. T. Wilkie.
English peers and immortal fairies rubbed shoulders at Mitcham Baths on Friday and Saturday of last week, when the Mitcham County School for Boys presented “Iolanthe ” as their third annual Gilbert and Sullivan production.
Mr. A. J. Doig (heed master) showed great courage in the selection of such a difficult work, but he evidently knew the abilities of his pupils, especially in the chorus work. Twenty odd youngsters, obviously from the lower school, were transformed into flitting, silver-voiced fairies, who sang with that natural, clear tone which a female chorus can never do.
Obviously. for a young, all-male cast the opera presented difficulties, but from the vocal point of view it did not suffer owing to the absence of females. The singing was the greatest of all the features of the show, and a school able to produce a better standard of singing would be hard to find.
Mr. A. J. Doig once again shouldered the great responsibilities of producer, coach and musical director, and excelled himself in all three capacities. Evidence of his coaching was seen in the way in which the entire cast combined action with singing, not an easy thing for amateurs. Even with the large amount of talented human material available, the show must have been the result of tremendous effort and thought on Mr. Doig’s part. Whether the acting satisfied Mr. Doig or not, the large audiences assured him that they were more than delighted with the show.
Of the cast, perhaps J. P. MacLaren, as the Lord Chancellor, was the most Gilbertian. Possessing a pleasing voice, he sang and frolicked his way through a role which required constant action. He was warmly encored for his singing in the second act, and he seemed quite comfortable when fooling with Mountararat (A. L. Watts) and Tolloller (P. C. Didcock), the two noble suitors. Watts’s remarkably mellow voice was heard to advantage in the second act, and he and his partner, Didcock, worked in perfect harmony. Didcock also possesses a promising voice, and he combined well in the trio.
Iolanthe was played by R. Stainforth, and was the most difficult role in the cast. To look young and yet be the mother of a senior member of the school is no easy task for a boy of Stainforth’s age. The extent of his successful interpretation seemed to frighten him, and his small voice did not encourage him. A very creditable performance of an uncomfortable and very difficult part.
S. J. Ashby was charming as Phyllis, the shepherdess, and many of the audience thought that a girl was playing the part. Ashby gave a display worthy of sincere congratulation. Singing, acting and deportment were necessary for the part, and he sang delightfully, acted naturally and carried himself so daintily that a few females might be envious of such grace. What a pity that such a clear voice will perhaps before long give place to more manly tones.
H. A. Packer was a spirited Strephon, and got through those uncomfortable love scenes with Phyllis quite creditably. His duets with Ashby proved very popular. Private Willis (J. H. Stainforth) had little to do, but proved that he was quite capable of more deserving parts.
The chorus of dukes, earls, viscounts and barons lent colour to the settings, but their voices were hardly heavy enough to bring out the finer points of the chorus work. The fairies out-weighed them in strength, but lacked some of the finer points of acting.
S. A. R. Rose was rather apathetic as the Fairy Queen, but improved considerably towards the end. His difficulty was the problem of using his hands. After several attempts, he adopted the stance of a weight-lifter posing before camera. Nervousness seemed to be troubling him, but he acted more easily in the second act.
The admiration of the large audiences was for all those who interpreted female parts. An announcement in the programme said that the proceeds of the performances were for improvement in the school’s new playing field. The programme also contained an invitation to the public to see the school “Rugger” teams in action. To see Phyllis tackled by the Fairy queen would be good fun, and would show that operatic production is not the only winter pastime in the school curriculum.
Mr. A. J. Doig conducted the orchestra, which consisted of the following:
First violin – Mrs. D. Stickings, Mr. A. White, Mr. E. V. S. Ericson;
Second violin – Mr. L. A. Johnston, Mr. C. G. Reed, Mr. C. Jones;
Viola – Mr. R. W. E. Stickings,
Violoncello – Mr. John Podel;
Trombone – Mr R. A. Johnson, Mr Caldow;
Pianos – Mr F. C. Hambleton, Mr. L. W. Stephens.
For a history of the school, see the Old Mitchamians website.