The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company began their current run at the Savoy Theatre with an excellent production of “Iolanthe”, however their follow up production “The Yeomen of the Guard” is disappointing. To be fair to the company though this is one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s less popular operas for the modern day audience. There is not much wit within the story or lyrics, and whilst Arthur Sullivan may have been happy that the story contained no “topsy-turvy Dom” today’s audience will no doubt disagree.
In this operetta you will find no silly police officers singing a “Policeman’s Lot is Not a Happy One”, or Lord High Executioners who sing gleefully “I’ve got him on my list”. Instead we are given a half-hearted attempt at comic opera and the real stuff. There are very few memorable songs and those that one will remember such as “I’ll Sing You a Song, O” are not the wonderful ditties one associates with “Pirates of Penzance” or “Mikado” etc.
However, the singing by this seasoned and talented Company is, as expected, excellent and there are some delightful performances! Jill Pert brings some much-needed humour to the show as the formidable Dame Currothers “House Keeper to the Tower”. Despite the severity of her initial stern entrance she turns out to be a buxom seductress who desperately wants to wed Sergeant Meryl. Graham Stone plays a merry and delightful Wilfred Shadbolt the jailer. But, the star of the show is Paul Barnhill as Jack Point the strolling Jester. He may not have you rolling about in your seats with laughter but he gives a charming and engaging performance.
Bruce French’s clever stage design, a simple wooden scaffold built to create an outline of the White Tower, creates the right atmosphere for this unusually sombre setting for a Gilbert & Sullivan Opera.
“The Yeomen of the Guard” is an opera for the more seasoned fan of this musical duo, especially since it lacks much of the comic genius of many of their other works. With a bit more imagination this production could have been given more joviality, which would help it attract a larger audience. As it is, it will no doubt have limited appeal.
What other critics had to say.....
DARREN DALGLISH says, "This is not one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s best operas and at 2 hours 45 minutes I found the music dull and repetitive lacking rhythm and cheerfulness. A very dull show indeed!! " ERICA JEAL for THE GUARDIAN says, “Don't expect a laugh a minute - but if you're after a solid, traditional and wholly respectable G&S show, this will hit the spot.” RODNEY MILNES FOR THE TIMES SAYS, “Lazily plotted and inconsistently characterised.” RUPERT CHRISTIANSEN for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, “W Gilbert's libretto is pretty awful….Wonderful score..” FIONA MADDOCKS for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Tunefully gloomy tragi-comedy."
External links to full reviews from newspapers...