THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD
19th August 2009
Buxton Opera House
Peak Opera’s production of The Yeomen of the Guard was eagerly anticipated within the Buxton Festival camp. The show is a favourite of many, so Peak were under rather a lot of pressure when mounting their annual performance this year.
With any amateur production the audience must be willing to factor difficulties and restricted rehearsal time into their view of the show, and though Peak did well within their amateur confines, in the case of the chorus one could not help but feel even one extra day rehearsal of musical confidence would not have gone a miss. However, despite the odd worrying tendency to wander from Sullivan’s desired timing, the chorus did well to fill the stage with enthusiasm, and the Music Director was quick to reign the few musical discrepancies back in. Vocally the chorus were a little unbalanced, with a heavy tenor and soprano presence, but their acting efforts were well received.
The show went off well, sticking largely to the more traditional direction of G&S but slipping in new bits of business, which were (on the whole) easily detected and then largely accepted by the eagle-eyed audience. The direction was perhaps a little static in places, but was generally well executed and sometimes pleasingly effective, such as the sexual capers in ‘Were I Thy Bride’ and the quaint bunting-frilled dance to ‘Heighdy’.
The principal line-up was strong; a charismatic Phoebe (Lucy Appleyard) and an oddly likeable Shadbolt (Gareth Edwards) were well partnered, both demonstrating good vocal ability and delivering confident and enjoyable performances. David Lovell’s Sergeant Meryll was a kindlier version than sometimes found, who sported an impressive yeomanly beard, though not as intriguing as the beard sported by Kimmo Eriksson when he wasn’t playing Leonard Meryll. Angela Lowe provided a Dame Caruthers who was formidable in her way, but not entirely unlike able; whether deliberately or not, she gave the character an interesting dimension of slight nervousness in her over active arm movements. Elsie Maynard (Alexandra Saunders) was vocally pleasing, but a little less animated than she could have been; this had the interesting effect of complimenting Chris Diffey’s enthusiastic Fairfax, but faced with Jack Point’s avid devotion, seemed to hint at a bored acquiescence to their match on Elsie’s part. Liam Geoghegan played Point straight and with enough merry wit to warrant the Joker’s profession, but his aptitude lay in the very humane portrayal of Point as a man suffering the pangs of unrequited love; he coped well with the inherent difficulties of playing a character who must bounce from the one extreme to it’s opposite. The handful of smaller principal parts were equally well played; no actor could be targeted as a weak link.
The set was effective and the ambiguity of its doorways could be forgiven in the face of their ability to traffic large numbers. The use of traditional costume was good, especially for Point, Phoebe and the Yeomen, though one or two costuming decisions were a trifle dubious. The cast as a whole could not be faulted on their enthusiasm or effort, and looked to be enjoying themselves.
The most memorable part of the show was undoubtedly the rather controversial decision to have Point assassinated. The audience might indeed have been unsure what to make of it, but it was certainly a shocking ending and brave decision, the sadness of which left more than one member of the audience significantly moved.
Peak Opera delivered an enjoyable performance, which housed some genuine talent.