You are here: Archive Home > Gilbert > Plays > The Happy Land > Review from the Staffordshire Sentinel
The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive   The Happy Land

Review from the Staffordshire Sentinel

Friday, 9 May 1873, page 3

This political burlesque was produced last night at the Theatre Royal, Hanley. The burlesque is a parody by Messrs. F. Tomline and Gilbert A' Beckett, of Mr. W. S. Gilbert's latest fairy comedy The Wicked World, and the dramatic personae (with the exception of the three right honourables) are identical in name. While in The Wicked World Mr. Gilbert illustrates to fairy minds some of the inconveniences of Love, the authors of A Happy Land ridicule popular government as it is under the present regime. Of course, the peculiarities of the Ministers presented are identified, as they are in cartoons of the comic papers, but there is nothing more offensive in these caricatures than in those of "Punch," "Judy," or "Fun."

The version of The Happy Land now under notice is very different from the piece which hurt the susceptibilities of the censor of plays, and which caused Miss Litton's theatre to be closed for two or three nights. Much if not all of the forbidden matter has been eliminated, and other lines have been introduced. But it must not be supposed that the object of the burlesque is lost. Intended as a satire on the present government it remains so, and little of the point is lost through compulsory omissions. The plot runs thus: Three male fairies – Ethais, Phylion and Lutin – descent to "the happy land," as "the wicked world" is called; and after hearing their experiences, the Fairy Queen expresses a determination to go to earth. This is what the three mates don't want, and they agree to return to the world themselves and ask their monarch to send three mortals, so that the fairies may see what men are like. Incidentally we are told that the fairy king is in England studying political economy which means "spending a pound to save a penny." While awaiting the three mortals, the Fairy Queen explains the reason of English

Their War Office is governed (without doubt)
By some stout warrior whose dinted helm
Has danced triumphant through a thousand fights;
Their Admiralty (p'rhaps) is piloted
By some First Lord, whose bosom bears the scars
Of fifty tough sea battles

When the mortals appear, they are the three right honourables, who still sing the famous trio with the chorus –

Oh, we are three most popular men!
We want to know who'll turn us out!

At the desire of the fairies, the three right honourables induct then into the mysteries of popular government, and the king of Bonny's claim to Scotland induces references to the famous "three courses." All the fairies want to be Premier, and it is agreed to make all the appointments after a competitive examination, in which those who show the utmost ignorance of particular duties should be appointed to fill them. For example –

Darine – Please, Sir, what is a ship?
Mr. A – Here's a first Lord ready made!

The result of fairy attempts to govern on "popular" principles is disaster everywhere; and the Ministry resign. In answer to Seline, Mr. A explains that "patriotism is the ladder by which the rising statesman ascends to the pinnacle of place," and that "place is the pinnacle seated upon which the risen statesman kicks away the ladder of patriotism." "Sisters," says Seline, "I've done with office, give me a peerage and let me end my days in respectability and peace." Still she is loth to let Mr. G go back to earth –

My chief, my trimming chief – but still my chief;
My guide, short-sighted guide – but still my guide.
Forgive me, Mr. G. thou hast withdrawn
The very core and substance of my senses.
Like earthly men, whatever mulls you make
I take your part. In fact, I'll be your slave.
I'll go into the Lobby at your beck,
I'll never rise to speak – I'll b ut divide;
I'll ask no place of thee – yet swear by thee.
Become a Tory, Liberal, Radical –
All three in turns, or all three at once.

After the mortals depart, the three male fairies return with the promise of "popular government," but the fairies will none of it. They will "Leave such blessings to a happy land." The three right honourables were fairly made up, the trio being at once recognised by the audience as the Premier, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Chief Commissioner of Works. The hits at the Government, some of them severe, were promptly appreciated, judging by the laughter. The parts were sustained by Misses R. Mellor, Emily Duncn, Louisa Vere, Emma Ivey, Sophie Miller, and Harris; Messrs A. Sanger, J. Robins, W. Brunton. They all acquitted themselves well, and the applause was hearty and frequent. The burlesque was preceded by "A Life Race."

Archive Home | Gilbert | Plays | The Happy Land

   Page modified 13 August, 2011 Copyright © 2009-11 The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive All Rights Reserved.