The Yeomen of The Guard

Date 11th May 2018
Society Eastbourne G & S Society
Venue Devonshire Park Eastbourne
Type of Production G&S
Director Wendy Dovey
Musical Director Pat White

Report

Author: Anne Lawson

The fairly long  overture was beautifully played by the excellent large orchestra whilst we were whisked through 50 years of  photographs celebrating the anniversary of the group’s milestone in history – a wonderful achievement.

Immediately transported to the 16th Century,  The Tower of London where Lucy Sarsfield a charming Phoebe is busy spinning as she sings and sighs. Daughter of Sergeant Meryll of the Guards - portrayed by imposing Nigel Lawton – she’s secretly in love with the handsome prisoner Colonel Fairfax, due this very day to be executed with a sorcery charge against him. Another complicated G & S plot, containing much humour and some interesting characters. Bearded bass baritone Trevor Allen impressed as Sir Richard Cholmondeley,  Lieutenant of the Tower, with  G & S bitten Tim Archer, acting a most convincing Leonard, Meryll’s son. Superbly costumed, Dame Carruthers, the Tower’s Housekeeper a strong Marian Pierce who was ably assisted by Sue Davies once again playing a lovely cameo role of  niece Kate.  Wilfred Shadbolt was brought to life by Michael Bale enjoying his harmonies – relishing   in ‘torture’, as the Tower’s  Head Gaoler who’s  besotted with  Phoebe. To rescue the Colonel, played by a convincing, although according to his biog a slightly confused Christopher Peck, a plot is hatched and tempted by cash, Elsie a strolling singer agrees to marry him whilst blindfolded as a dying wish!!  Phoebe steals the gaoler’s keys. Leonard agrees to disappear and Fairfax (as Leonard) escapes whilst taking on the disguise of a Yeoman.  Jack Point hapless jester much in love with Elsie is hired to entertain the crowds with much witty dialogue.  More intrigue and happy conclusions for some – Elsie (restored back to health) and Colonel Fairfax, Dame Carruthers, and the arm twisted Meryll, but what of Phoebe?  – her lover Wilfred learns the truth and she agrees to marry him as a price for his silence re the plot,  and poor Jack Point in despair is left in a state of heartbreak and collapse. Excellent pairing of Rowan Stanfield as Elsie and Paul Eccles, with his wonderful facial expression and agility as Point.  Some very good harmonising and perfected footwork too. 

The Tower  was stunning, expertly designed and constructed by Steve Walter and his able team, with circular stone towers, walls and central steps, giving height for regal entrances particularly for the red uniformed Yeomen themselves, remaining in place throughout.  Even a raven was perched aloft, and a colour  skyline  colour changed according to time, most effective.  

Singing was obviously well rehearsed from the clarity and diction, with guidance from Russell Abelwhite as AMD and rehearsal pianist with Pat White, such an enthusiastic MD. Wendy Dovey’s enjoyable direction with a little bit of up-to-the minute dialogue included,  a real love story, full of comedy, pathos, diverse characters, supportive cameos and ensemble, together with beautiful costumes courtesy of Berenice Costumes and Helen Morbey Wardrobe Mistress, good make-up and hair styling,  the SM and his crew,  lighting and sound, props and unseen heroes, this truly was a Birthday to remember.