Welcome welcome! Today for your entertainment and enjoyment,we have a special feature: Iolanthe, by Gilbert & Sullivan. This is aPlot I will be unable to work into the main story, because I shouldhave started setting it up a generation or so ago. Whoops.Although Iolanthe is my favorite Gilbert & Sullivan title, andalthough I had a t-shirt of Iolanthe as a child that I wore until I wasforced to throw it away (just because it had holes and you could read anewspaper through it -- stupid parents!), this is not actually a particularlydynamic opera. Sorry ‘bout that.Blame W. S. Gilbert.
RUTH: Right, so our story opens with the chorus of fairies comingout and dancing. Also singing a song about how they are delicatelittle fairies flitting about, but since this show is generallyperformed by people who have spent years and years training theirvoices, you can imagine how well the dancing usually works. Thefairies themselves are aware of this, and after they finish theirdance, they talk about how they wish the Fairy Queen hadn’tbanished Iolanthe, since she was the one who wrote all their songsand did the choreography for their dances. And then the FairyQueen herself comes in. Matt?
MATTHIAS (good-naturedly): What, are we engaging in hurtfulstereotyping now, just because I’m married to your brother-in-law?Anyway, aren’t you going to play her? She’s a contralto.RUTH: Iolanthe and Phyllis need to be onstage at the same time, soI’m going to have to be Iolanthe this time around. Kids?BUTTERCUP: No, thanks.DESCARTES and OLD ADAM: NO!OAKAPPLE: I don’t want to kiss any boys!RUTH: Sarah Jane?SARAH JANE (surprised): I though you needed me for Phyllis?RUTH: I do, but can’t you double?SARAH JANE: Okay.
RUTH: So the Fairy Queen comes in and says, basically:SARAH JANE: Yes, I banished Iolanthe, but by our laws sheshould have died for marrying a mortal.DESCARTES: So why did you just banish her?SARAH JANE: Because I liked her too! She was always myfavorite. And when I banished her, I thought she’d go somewherenice, like, oh, Pleasantview. Or Veronaville. Not the bottom of thestream, with the frogs! Why would she do that?OAKAPPLE: Why don’t you ask her?SARAH JANE: Because if I saw her, I’d forgive her. Oh, heckwith it: Iolanthe!
RUTH: Yes, ma’am?SARAH JANE: I forgive you. You’re a full fairy again. Now: Whydid you go to live at the bottom of the stream?OAKAPPLE: With the frogs?RUTH: To be near my son, Strephon.SARAH JANE: You have a son? Why didn’t you tell me?RUTH: I didn’t tell anybody, not even my husband. Strephon wasborn after you banished me. He’s in love with Phyllis, a beautifulWard in Chancery, and he works as a shepherd. Would you like tomeet him?SARAH JANE: I’d love to.
RUTH: Good, because here he comes.(Enter Tim, to general hilarity)DESCARTES (humiliated): What are you wearing?TIM (with dignity): This is the outfit of an Arcadian shepherd.DESCARTES (hopefully): Really?TIM: No. A real shepherd would have wet himself laughing at theidea that he tend sheep in this outfit. But the middle-class audienceGilbert was writing for wouldn’t have known what to do with asheep if it was right in front of them. And they thought the outfitlooked charming.RUTH: Of course, they were also into fairies.
TIM: Hi, Mom!RUTH: Hi, Strephon! Good news! I’m not banished anymore.TIM: Awesome! Who are these ladies?RUTH: They are my sister fairies.TIM: Then that makes them my aunts. Cool! You all have to cometo the wedding. I’m getting married today.RUTH: So the Lord Chancellor gave you permission to marryPhyllis?TIM: No, even after I played him a song on my flute andeverything. But I’m going to go back today and play him anotherone!
RUTH: Mmmmaybe he’d prefer it if you had a more stable job.TIM: But what? My only skills are (ticks them off on his fingers ashe speaks) keeping velvet knee breeches clean despite all thelanolin and sheep poop, using a curling iron, playing the flute, andbeing devastatingly handsome.SARAH JANE: Sounds like you’re perfectly qualified to go intopolitics, then. How would you like to be a member of Parliament?
RUTH: And then follows a biting and screamingly hilarious bit ofpolitical satire -- if you’re up on the British political scene of 1882.Since I don’t think any of you are, we’ll skip it. But Strephonagrees that yes, he’d like to be a member of Parliament.SARAH JANE: Goodbye, Strephon! If you ever need us, just call!TIM: Will do!RUTH: And all the fairies leave, but in comes Phyllis.
SARAH JANE: Hi, Strephon!TIM: Hi, Phyllis! Are you ready to get married?SARAH JANE: Yes, but I’m a little nervous about -- about -- (inher own voice) Why didn’t you just adapt a modern outfit, like me?I mean, shepherdesses never really went around in heels andpetticoats that added three feet to their hip measurement.TIM: But it looked charming. (getting back in character) Whichwould be why every man in the entire House of Lords wants tomarry you.SARAH JANE: Yes, but getting married without the LordChancellor’s consent is a crime. Can’t you wait until I’m of age intwo years?
SARAH JANE: Ah. I see your point. Two years is totallyunreasonable.RUTH: …And then they sing a song about how in love they are,and we go to the House of Lords, where all the Lords are marchingin.
MATTHIAS TYRONE (sings) (sings)Tantara, ta ta ta ta ta ta ta, Bang, bang theTantara, ta ta ta ta ta ta ta, brasses, boom!Tantara, ta ta ta ta ta ta ta, Bang, bang theTantara, ta ta ta ta ta ta ta, brasses, boom!Tantara, ta ta ta ta ta ta ta, Tzing, boom!Tantara, ta ta ta ta ta ta ta, Tzing, boom!Tantara, ta ta ta ta ta ta ta, Tzing, boom! Tzing, boom!
RUTH: Yes, thank you for that overly dramatic entrance,gentlemen. The Lords are followed by the Lord Chancellor.RYAN (sings): The Law is the true embodiment, of everythingthat’s excellent. It has no kind of fault or flaw, and I my Lords,embody the Law! (speaks) Golly, I love my job! I’m the officialguardian of every pretty, parentless girl in the country -- not a oneof ’em over twenty-one! But you know the bad part? I can’t marryany of ’em myself! (grumbles) I hate my job!
TYRONE: On to business!RYAN: Yeah, yeah. I was getting there. So the whole House ofLords has applied to me for permission to marry Phyllis, with theunderstanding that Phyllis gets to pick the one of you she wants.Frankly, I’d rather marry her myself than give her to one of youbozos! But that’s not ethical, so I’ve asked her to come here todayand pick somebody. And oh look! Here she is.
SARAH JANE: You wanted to see me, Mr. Guardian Person, sir?RYAN: Yes. Which of these fine Lords would you like to marry?TYRONE, MATTHIAS, and AUDIENCE (at the urging of Ruth):Pick me! Pick me!SARAH JANE: Oh, I’m so sorry! You see, I’m in love already!RYAN: In love! With who? Er -- whom?TIM (heroically): With me!TYRONE and MATTHIAS: A shepherd!(Tyrone and Matthias stagger out, exaggeratedly heartbroken andleaning on each other for support)RYAN (to Tim): Can I have a word, kiddo?
RYAN: Look: you can’t legally marry Phyllis without my consent.And I haven’t given it.TIM: I don’t need your consent! Nature herself has told me it’scopasetic! (dramatically) ’Tis writ in heaven by the bright barbeddart that leaps forth into lurid light from from each grimthundercloud!RYAN: Sure, okay. That’s cool. But I can’t take your word for it -that’s hearsay and inadmissible in court. Do you have an affidavitfrom a thundercloud, maybe, or anything like that?TIM: Um, no.RYAN: Then you can’t legally marry Phyllis without my consent.And I don’t give it. Bye-bye, now. (shoves Tim towards the door)
RUTH: Oh, Strephon! What’s wrong?TIM: The Lord Chancellor says I can’t marry Phyllis!RUTH: Well, never fear! The Fairy Queen will help you. I’ll askher for you.TIM: Oh, thank you, Mom! How can I ever repay you?RUTH: (in her own voice) Now, what Iolanthe and Strephon don’tknow is that Phyllis, Lord Mountararat and Lord Tolloller havesneaked back in. Er, Ty, are you Mountararat or Tolloller?TYRONE: I’m Lord Mountararat.RUTH: Okay. Matt, you’re up, then. So not knowing that they’rebeing overheard, Iolanthe and Strephon sing a little song.
RUTH (sings, to Tim): When tempests wreck thy bark, And all isdrear and dark, If thou shouldst need an Ark, I’ll give thee one!SARAH JANE (to Matthias): What was that?MATTHIAS (sings, to Sarah Jane): I heard the minx remark,She’d meet him after dark, Inside St. James’s Park, And give himone!SARAH JANE: “Give him one”?! You mean, as in grown-upstuff?!MATTHIAS: Presumably.
SARAH JANE: You bastard!TIM: Ow! Phyllis! This is my mother!SARAH JANE: Your mother! Don’t make me laugh! What’d shedo -- have you eight years before she was born? (marches over toMatthias and Tyrone) Okay, I’m going to marry one of you!(Matthias and Tyrone look at each other uncertainly)TYRONE: Er, which one?SARAH JANE: I don’t care! (stomps off)
TIM: Oh, it’s like that, huh? (calls) Hey, Fairy Queen!SARAH JANE: Yes, Strephon?TIM: I want to be a member of Parliament. Right now.SARAH JANE: Why so soon?TIM: They say that Mom’s not my mother.SARAH JANE: Oh do they? Well, I will make you a member ofParliament, and everything you want to be law will be, so there!TIM: Good! First thing I’ll do is make all members of the House ofLords pass an intelligence test!TYRONE (to Matthias): Crap! That’s us out of a job!RUTH: …And that’s the end of Act I.
At this point, I would like to mention that Ruth et al. originallycame from Already in Progress, and while that generation is gonenow, the story is still going strong. Check it out on my LJ or atDesirable Discourses. [/shameless self-promotion]
RUTH: So Act II opens with a jolly political commentary song bya private in the guard -- you know, one of the guys in the bigbearskin hats? But it’s not as jolly out of context, and he’s not animportant character, so we’ll skip it. Then the fairies make anotherembarrassing attempt at dancing and sing a song about howStrephon’s a member of Parliament now, which we will also skip.The really important thing to remember is the fairies are happyabout this development and the Lords are not.
TYRONE: This test to become a Peer is ridiculous! I don’t want tosay a word against brains -- I’ve a great respect for brains -- I oftenwish I had some myself -- but… (sings) When Wellington thrashed Bonaparte, As every child can tell, The House of Peers, throughout the war, Did nothing in particular, And did it very well: Yet Britain set the world ablaze In good King George’s glorious days!
RUTH: Lord Mountararat explaining how having intelligent peoplein charge of the country will lead to the inevitable catastrophicdestruction of the British Empire is apparently amazinglyattractive, because all the fairies fall in love with the lords. Thenboth parties sing a song in which the fairies act like perfectexamples of sensitive Victorian womanhood --TYRONE: Otherwise known as spoiled twelve-year-olds.RUTH: -- and the lords act like wounded men of breeding.TYRONE: Otherwise known as arrogant woohoo-heads.RUTH: Thank you, Tyrone. You can go now.(Tyrone leaves)
RUTH: At this point, the Fairy Queen comes out and reminds thefairies that even though British men are undoubtedly the sexiestmen on the face of the earth, marrying one is still punishable bydeath.BUTTERCUP: She says “sexiest”?!RUTH: No, actually she sings a song about the chief of the firecompany, which a brand-new thing in 1882. The fire reference isobvious, and apparently the chief was really something. But sincehe’s been dead at least a hundred years, I doubt he’s the studmuffinhe used to be. I’m paraphrasing here. Anyway, after the FairyQueen’s song, the fairies all leave and Lord Mountararat, LordTolloller, and Phyllis come in.
TYRONE: Darling!MATTHIAS: My own!SARAH JANE: Hey! …Oh, wait. Are you the two noblemen I’mengaged to?TYRONE and MATTHIAS (together): That’s us.SARAH JANE: Oh, that’s okay then. Have you decided which oneof you I’m marrying?MATTHIAS: Wwwwe thought we’d leave that up to you.SARAH JANE: I don’t care. You’re both Earls, rich, and plain.TYRONE: Well, that’s true.
MATTHIAS: Should we flip for her?TYRONE: Oh, that’s too crude.MATTHIAS: It’s either that or a duel.SARAH JANE: What if one of you gave up his title and lands?Then I could go with the other one.TYRONE and MATTHIAS (together): Nahhhhh.
TYRONE: I think she might be happier with me. I don’t know. Imay be wrong.MATTHIAS: No. I don’t know that you are. I really believe shewould. But the awkward part of the thing is that if you rob me ofthe girl of my heart, we must fight, and one of us must die. It’s afamily tradition that I have sworn to respect. It’s a painful position,for I have a very strong regard for you, George.TYRONE (much affected): My dear Thomas!MATTHIAS: You are very dear to me, George. We were boystogether -- at least I was. If I were to survive you, my existencewould be hopelessly embittered.TYRONE: Oh, Thomas…
RUTH: GILBERT NEVER WROTE THAT!MATTHIAS: Well, if he didn’t, he should have.TYRONE: Two confirmed bachelors who care more about eachother than a pretty girl? Waste of a good set up.RUTH: STOP IT RIGHT NOW!
RUTH: So after Mountararat and Tolloller decide that theirfriendship is more important than Phyllis, the three of them sing alittle song about that.TYRONE (reading from a copy of the script): “Exeunt LordMountararat and Lord Tolloller, lovingly, in one direction, andPhyllis in the other.”*RUTH: Give me that! (snatches the script) And then the LordChancellor comes out and sings one of the best descriptions of adream I’ve ever encountered, and it’s a real pity that the staginginvolves a man in his pajamas standing in one place.
RYAN (sings)…And bound on that journey you find your attorney (who started that morning from Devon); Hes a bit undersized, and you dont feel surprised when he tells you hes only elevenWell, youre driving like mad with this singular lad (by the by, the ships now a four-wheeler),And youre playing round games, and he calls you bad names when you tell him that "ties pay the dealer"; But this you cant stand, so you throw up your hand, and you find youre as cold as an icicle, In your shirt and your socks (the black silk with gold clocks), crossing Salisbury Plain on a bicycle...
RUTH: And once the Lord Chancellor’s song is over, Mountararatand Tolloller come in.MATTHIAS: What’s the matter?RYAN: Oh, I want to marry Phyllis, but I need my own permissionfirst. And last time I asked myself, I told myself no in really verydefinite terms, and I’m afraid I could never go back and ask myselfagain.TYRONE: Cheer up! Remind yourself that you’re really a verykindly gentleman, and as long as you’re properly respectful, youdon’t need to be concerned about facing yourself again.RYAN: You’re right! I’ll ask again and see if I’m in a better mood.RUTH: …And they all sing a song about that and leave.
TIM (glumly): Oh, hi, Lady… is it Mountararat or Tolloller?SARAH JANE: I haven’t decided yet. I don’t have a mother togive me advice.TIM: I do.SARAH JANE: A very young one, too.TIM: Yeah, a couple of centuries or so. She’s a fairy. So is mygrandmother and all my aunts. (sighs) I’m half a fairy.
SARAH JANE: Which half?TIM: Waist up.SARAH JANE: (mutters) Darn. (aloud) Well, why didn’t you tellme? I’m not prejudiced! I’d rather have half a mortal I love thanhalf-a-dozen I don’t. And now whenever I see you kissing a prettyyoung girl, I’ll know it’s really an elderly relative.TIM: Phyllis! Do you mean you’ll marry me after all?SARAH JANE: Right away!RUTH: …And they sing a song about that.
SARAH JANE: But what about your mother? We should tell her.RUTH: She already knows. Welcome to the family!SARAH JANE: Oh! But what about the Lord Chancellor? We stillneed his permission. (to Ruth) I know! You can ask him for us!Fairies can make anything happen.RUTH: No! I can’t ask him. He -- He’s my husband! AndStrephon’s father.SARAH JANE: Then of course you should ask him!RUTH: No! He thinks I died childless! And if he finds out I didn’tdie really, then under fairy law, I have to die anyway. Oh crud, herehe comes!
RYAN: Victory! Victory! Success has crowned my efforts, and Imay consider myself engaged to Phyllis! At first I wouldn’t hear ofit -- it was out of the question. But I took heart. I pointed out tomyself that I was no stranger to myself; that, in point of fact, I hadbeen personally acquainted with myself for some years. This hadits effect. I admitted that I had watched my professionaladvancement with considerable interest, and I handsomely addedthat I yielded to no one in admiration for my private andprofessional virtues. This was a great point gained. I thenendeavoured to work upon my feelings. Conceive my joy when Idistinctly perceived a tear glistening in my own eye! Eventually,after a severe struggle with myself, I reluctantly -- most reluctantly-- consented.
RUTH: No rush. Whenever you’re ready.RYAN: Oh, sorry.RUTH: (clears throat) I am here to plead for my son, Strephon. Heloves Phyllis more than life itself. If he cannot have her, he willdie. Oh, sir, if you ever loved anyone, please take pity on my son!Take pity on a mother! Don’t let my son die!RYAN: How tragic! But I’m afraid I can’t let him marry Phyllis.RUTH: Why not?RYAN: I’m going to marry her.RUTH: You! (aside) Okay, this one is for Strephon. For Phyllis.And for you! (to Ryan) You can’t marry Phyllis!
RYAN: Huh?RUTH: You can’t marry Phyllis because I am your wife!RYAN: Iolanthe? Baby? You’re… You’re alive?RUTH: Yes, but not for long! I have broken the law, and now Ihave to die.RYAN: But -- !SARAH JANE: Yes, she must die! The law is the law, you know.RYAN: Well, yeah…AUDIENCE (prompted by Ruth): STOP!
RUTH: And then the fairies explain that if Iolanthe is executed,they all have to be executed. They just couldn’t resist inbred menof very little brain any longer and have gone and married themembers of the House of Lords. All of them, Ty.SARAH JANE: But -- But the law says right here: “Any fairy whomarries a mortal must die”! (produces a law book and points)RYAN: Can I see? (studies the book, and then takes out a pen)Easy fix -- one little word. (writes in the book) There. Now it says“Any fairy who doesn’t marry a mortal must die.” All better!DESCARTES: But what about the Fairy Queen?OAKAPPLE: She’s not married to a mortal.
RUTH: Nope. But you remember the guard at the beginning of ActII? The one with the jolly little song that we didn’t sing? The FairyQueen marries him. And since Strephon’s new law means thatthere will be intelligent people running the country, nobody needsthe lords anymore, and they all go off to Fairyland with their newwives. They sing a little song about it, and then curtain. The end.
RUTH: I said their wives, Matt! GILBERT DIDN’T WRITETHAT!
Notes, disclaimers, and other triviaIolanthe is probably the show that aged the least well, or at leastthe second-least-well, what with its heavy dependence on currentevents of the time and Victorian sensibilities. I freely admit toadding in my own editorial views.Tim’s outfit and hairstyle were made by lidiqnata over at MTS.Sarah Jane’s hair and Tyrone and Matthias’s facial hair were madeby Phaenoh over at MTS. All three bits of cc have been removedfrom my game: the Rococo fashions because I don’t play ahistorical game, and the hairs because I don’t agree with certain ofthe creator’s viewpoints.
Once again, I used many of Gilbert’s own words; more than usualthis time around. In addition to the songs, these include Tim’s lineabout “’Tis writ in heaven…”, Tyrone’s line about “I don’t want tosay anything against brains…”, Ryan’s speech about being allowedto marry Phyllis at last, and the entire dialog between Tyrone andMatt, beginning with “I don’t know. I may be wrong” andcontinuing up until “…my existence would be hopelesslyembittered.” The stage direction Tyrone reads is real.Just in case you thought I was making that relationship up out ofnowhere.
As a minor point of interest, Ryan is actually the youngest of thethree brothers, so he would not normally call Tim “kiddo.”To be clear, Ruth has no problem with Tyrone and Matthias beingmarried in ordinary life. She does, however, have a problem withthem changing Gilbert’s characters.I hope that you enjoyed this story, and that it wasn’t too long andboring for you. We will return to our regularly scheduledprogramming next time.Until then, Happy Simming!