Playing Strephon

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This week, I have the pleasure of performing with White Horse Opera in Market Lavington School, outside of Devizes in Wiltshire.  The group are performing Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe, or The Peer and the Peri. First performed in 1882, the story is of a fairy who married a mortal and what then happens when fairy law and the law of Victorian Britain clash.  It is all good fun and happily lampoons the House of Lords.

Into this arena comes Strephon, who is the offspring of the aforementioned peer and peri marriage. Because of this he is both half a fairy and half a mortal, which produces its own unique blend of difficulties.

So what is needed in preparing for the role of Strephon?

The quick answer here is a sense of humour, a lyrical baritone voice and a good costume.  He is an Arcadian shepherd (essentially he is from an idyllic pastoral setting) who is in love with the Lord Chancellor’s ward, Phyllis. Character-wise he is the romantic male lead as part of the ‘how will they get together?’ section of the plot.

The not-so-secret trick of playing Strephon seems to be to play him straight.  He is an instrument of comedy in the show.  His strange predicament of being half a fairy is an ongoing joke and he doesn’t seem to realise how shallow he and Phyllis appear. This culminates in the song ‘If we’re weak enough to tarry’ where the couple decide that they should marry as soon as possible in case they should change their minds afterwards.

It’s very silly and the music is very beautifully composed with some poignant moments as well as plenty of laughs.  If you are in the area, it should be a brilliant evening’s entertainment.  For more information visit:  http://www.whitehorseopera.co.uk/.

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