The Yeomen of the Guard

Date 3rd May 2017
Society East Norfolk Operatic Society
Venue Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich
Type of Production Musical
Director Richard Mitchell
Musical Director Ricard Mitchell chorus master Ros Swetman


Author: Susan DuPont

What a beautiful set to greet us in the auditorium and how well the timbered dwellings fitted with the beams of the theatre to create the atmosphere, and that excellent cloth of the tower also.   Liked the gauze effect for overture and entr’acte with lanterns, and the intimacy of the opening so that Phoebe was not exposed to a large space, a good feel.

New Director Richard Mitchell had worked to create real life and feeling characters in the named roles, certainly very expressive in the moods and relationships between the personalities.   And as expected from an ex-Doyley Carte man, great emphasis on notes and harmonies and all the words in dialogue; and, as Chorus Master, Ros Swetman had worked so hard preparing the music for the actions, excellent harmonies throughout.   No weak links in this line-up and a good feel for the whole piece.  Must congratulate all involved in the ‘set pieces’ of trios and quartets as they were so well balanced and harmonised, great.

As Phoebe, Rachel Goodchild changed range and style, and what a delightful interpretation and personality as she played with Shadbolt and flirted with Fairfax: a most professional and perfect role with the perfect notes, a delight to watch and hear.   And Robin Richardson as Jailer gave a very thoughtful and cleverly interpreted performance showing a different feel and with the humour as well as the uncouthness and lack of feeling for fellow man, this was a performance to show hidden depths and how well he and Rachel gelled in their relationship.   And what a delight for all involved that Martin Milnes returned as guest to play Fairfax, certainly having a professional tenor in that role makes the whole performance sparkle, and how brilliantly he and Rachel match up in performance.    And this time he had another lady as Elsie to work with and pay his attentions and match their notes, Laura Marvell-James was not played down and, having always seen her as mezzo, and known actress, was a surprise as a soprano.   Certainly Martin managed both his ladies with style.

A lovely mellow, fruitful, and strong voice for the Lieutenant of Tower, Kevin Jeckells, beautiful to hear.   Clive Swetman made an excellent Sergeant Meryll, good with vocals and timing and reactions to all situations.   Good to hear his reinstatement of ‘A laughing boy’, rarely heard.   And his approach to Dame Carruthers and the ‘Rapture’ number brought out his worse moments in comedy, and they gelled well.   Sue Coleman as Dame had stature and dignity and presence and knew her place and command of the Warders.   How nice to see the cameo inclusion of Steve Holmes as Leonard, need that voice to blend with others in the harmonies.    And Sue Norgate as Kate had the soprano line perfect in singing ‘Strange Adventure’.

The performance of the evening, sympathetic to the character and understanding him, every ounce of comedy and humour realised, every expression and look and flick of eyebrow or gesture, a great feel and understanding of hope and loss, the flexibility of movement needed, and every word both sung and spoken delivered with perfect diction and projection, Edmund Ramsdale was Jack Point, and how we loved him and felt for him.   And how well he reacted and worked with his love Elsie and showed his feelings, and how good the rapport and comedy created with Shadbolt to show the other side of the character.

However good the named roles,  G & S production relies on the strength of singing and performance of the chorus, and we were not disappointed in what came over the footlights.   The Yeomen, led by Andy Weston and Keith Swetman, gave powerful renditions and underlaid the big choruses in balancing many more ladies to give the ‘big sing’ sound required to sweep us all along with this score and to bring to fruition all we expected from the music.