Once tremendously popular, the appetite for Gilbert and Sullivan's Victorian era comic operas has waned somewhat throughout the last few decades.

Indeed, residents of the Isle of Wight used to have several opportunities to go and enjoy the likes of The Mikado, or Pirates of Penzance, thanks to Island Savoyards, who spent the first four decades of their existance primarily performing G&S.

But in 2011, a decision was made to branch out. Audiences wanted West End musicals and that was what would fill Shanklin Theatre, moving forward. That proved the right decision, of course.

But, a decade or so on, the G&S itch still needed a scratch. 

Isle of Wight County Press: Lucy Hinkley as Phyllis and Andy Kay as Strephon, in Iolanthe.Lucy Hinkley as Phyllis and Andy Kay as Strephon, in Iolanthe. (Image: Rodger Hooper)A group of performers formed GASP, Gilbert and Sullivan Productions, and attracted many of the Island's stage talent to join in.

Iolanthe was their second production, performed at Bembridge Village Hall this week. 

Iolanthe piqued my interest, as 30 years before I had been one of the fairies when we put on the show at Sandown High School, in conjunction with some members of the Savoyards. Would it bring back happy memories? Undoubtably! 

It was brilliant to see a packed hall at Bembridge, proving there's still an appetite for such shows.

The fairy chorus and parliament scenes filled the tiny stage, and it was easy to spot familiar faces from the Island's theatre scene, such as Jill Legg and Sheelah Stephens - who each gave 50 years of devotion to the Savoyards.

All this experience on stage, a cast with decades (centuries!) of experience between them, made the entire production a very polished one. 

It was an absolute treat to hear the beautiful voice of Hanna Emily Nixon as Iolanthe - worth going along for that alone! 

John Abraham had, in my opinion, the trickiest songs to sing, but this was the best I have ever seen him perform. He revelled in his role as The Lord Chancellor.

Strong performances came from Libby Pike as Queen of the Fairies, Lucy Hinkley as Phyllis, and Andy Kay as Strephon. Mike Palette was adorable as the elderly  Private Willis of the Grenadier Guards - a clear audience favourite.

Well done to all involved, from the live orchestra to the set designers, director Andrew Wilson Jenner, musical director Steve Burton and choreographer Debbie Small.

It was an entertaining visit to fairyland, from the battle of the sexes as the women "interfered with politics" to the bit of fun poked at the antiquated ways of the House of Lords.

Don't miss the 2024 production of The Mikado.

Pictures by Rodger Hooper