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Review by John Flay
Production budgets mean savings have to be made and most G and S operettas are accompanied by abridged orchestrations. For Yeoman Sullivan’s only self-written overture, the condensed orchestration lacked the depth and beauty of the original. The M.D. got everything out of the score and the overall vocal effect was of the society’s high standard.
The direction captured the mood of the piece and there were some excellent stage tableaux. Part of the overture was used to mime the fire mentioned within the plot. The finale of act two where Jack Point falls insensible was in the tradition a la carte manner, but is there any other way of presenting the scene so dramatically.
Scenery was simple and left space for the stage not to look cramped. Excellent costumes by ‘The Boyz’ especially the Yeomen uniforms. One small observation Jack Point needed some sort of change in act two. When he is working for his new master. The lighting added to the changing moods, giving good effects, of the bitter sweet tale of Jack and Elsie.
Stephen Othen, as the wrongly charged alchemist, Colonel Fairfax, sang and acted like a true Savoyard. Elsie Maynard, one half of the strolling players, was brought to life by Helen Fieldsend. She lifted the words off the page and sand with such tenderness and conviction.
There is comedy in Yeomen, yes, and it was delivered with a nice light touch by Janice Rendel as Pheobe. He who thinks a jester’s call would suit him, head jailer Wilfred Shadbolt, was played supremely well by Ken Brook. Ken extracted all the humour and was in complete control. He displayed such an eye for detail.
Performers like to emulate a performer they have seen playing a particular part. Joel Fisher thankfully isn’t old enough to have seen the stars of the past playing Jack Point. Instead he brought a refreshing and genuine interpretation of the role.
Stagecraft couldn’t have been more in evidence from Tony Noden: his characterisation was complete as Sergeant Meryll. We genuinely believed his wariness about meddling Dame Carruthers (Liz Betts).
The supporting characters and ensemble players gave reliable performances contributing to the overall drama. This production makes you realise there is still a place, a need for Savoy Operas. As long as they are presented for what they are and not how they use to be presented, then I believe a new audience will come along.