Merrie England

Date 6th October 2017
Society Chesterfield Gilbert & Sullivan Society
Venue Ashover Parish Hall
Type of Production G&S
Director Nic Wilson
Musical Director Andrew Marples


Author: Joyce Handbury

Merrie England is an English comic opera by Edward German and libretto by Basil Hood which tells the story of love and rivalries at the court of Queen Elizabeth 1st, when a love letter sent by Sir Walter Raleigh to one of the Queen’s Ladies in Waiting, Bessie Throckmorton, ends up in the hands of the Earl of Essex and is passed on to the Queen.

This is only the third non-G&S production undertaken by the society and as the original is deemed to be beyond the scope of all but the largest of groups, Max Taylor, in what must have been a labour of love, edited and re-orchestrated the piece thus making it much more appealing both to modern day audiences and performers. Andrew Lockwood’s superb tenor voice was ideally suited to the role of Sir Walter Raleigh. His solos, duets and ensemble pieces were all first rate. Jo Howland was perfect as Bessie Throckmorton. Her singing was absolutely divine and together with her natural acting skills she gave an outstanding performance. Max Taylor was splendid as The Earl of Essex and Andrew Moore was excellent as Walter Wilkins, a Shakespearean Actor. His delivery of Romeo and Juliet, A - Z, was terrific. Judith Hill was magnificently imposing as Queen Elizabeth, Lizzy Blades has a very natural stage presence and played the part of the May Queen beautifully and Julie Currey, gave a very gentle and serene delivery as Jill-all-Alone, her lovely singing voice suited the role perfectly. Matthew Hammonds as Long Tom and Peter Smith as Big Ben were both admirable as the Royal Foresters and good support came from Honor Aldred as Kate and Raymond Hill as the Messenger. The singing and acting from the Chorus of Foresters and Towns Folk together with an Off-Stage Chorus was excellent and the nine piece orchestra was top-notch. The sets, by necessity because they are “taking the show on the road” to three very different small venues, were simple but very effective, good ambient lighting, and truly sumptuous costumes added the final touch to what was a most entertaining and delightful show culminating in a rousing rendition of ‘Robin Hood’s Wedding’. Many congratulations to everyone involved.