Dore Gilbert and Sullivan’s production of Yeoman of the Guard saw a full house on opening night at The Merlin Theatre. Nestled in the leafy backdrop of Nether Edge, the venue feels quite unique. Walking through the scenic gardens members of the society greeted us at the main entrance with two characters in full Yeoman regalia, a most surreal vision. The Tintagel building offers a modern feel within an intimate, luxury auditorium experience.
One of Gilbert and Sullivan’s more serious plays, the Yeoman of the Guard is a slow burn to start. The set utters tradition and is entrenched in heartbreak and romance. In the Tower of London, Colonel Fairfax faces execution for alchemy and sorcery. A twisted tale of mistaken identity and continued masquerade sees unrequited love as the stage lights up with the main characters. The audience is immediately captivated by a bold and exuberant cast, quick to deliver strong vocal performances and hefty dialogue. Admittedly, there’s an instant human connection to Wilfrid Shadbolt the Jailor right from the offset. His torment of others and own personal torture at the hands of Phoebe, denying her affections sees comic humour, rivalry and a warm repulsion for his cause combined. Shadbolt gets duped by his own desires and becomes jealous that the young Phoebe has eyes for Fairfax, the pull on the heartstrings begins.
The orchestra is engaging throughout, complex choral pieces resound with a superbly precise masterpiece, offering a fast-paced operatic production. These challenging vocal melodies and instrumental harmony are well timed and deliver emotive musical belters, throughout the opera. Gusto sopranos matched with duets and full impact finales, deliver a grand display of the work Dore Gilbert and Sullivan society have worked hard at creating. Dramatic and still stage moments fully embrace the audience to just watch in colourful awe. As gunshots and song ring out; the stage comes to life allowing the chorus mixed with the orchestra’s exceptional structure a huge range. This allows the main characters to tussle in scripted battle.
Touches of humour albeit dated are injected by the wit of Jack Pointers jester, who offers a foolhardy approach as a broken-hearted Merryman, alongside, Shadbolt the tormentor the main characters are enticing to watch. The woo for Elsie’s fair heart by Jack sees the main characters deliver an emotionally engaging performance, full of energy and overture. The believable sense of desire, to love, sees a hand in marriage, tears fall and hearts forlorn.
When Elsie is tested by the supposed Leonard, Fairfax in masquerade, the passionate finale encapsulates the love and sorrow that has complicated the play throughout. Not knowing and hurting is seduction enough for the audience. The tangled web does, however, give the hopeful jailer a chance at his own love, a wife. Phoebe who feels this man is beneath her and repulsed by his very presence is soon exploited by her truth and allows emotion to override sense. The grand finale offers a joyous fever that spreads love across even the coldest of hearts. A well performed and professional portrayal of one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s finest productions.
The Yeoman of the Guard is at The Merlin Theatre until 13th April 2019. You can buy tickets for The Yeoman of the Guard here.