Review: Harrogate International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, The Yeoman of the Guard, Royal Hall, Harrogate,

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

THE curtain rises on the Tower of London or to be more specific, Tower Green, the historic place of execution. Yeoman of the Guard is the darkest of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas. The heroic Colonel Fairfax is under sentence of death for sorcery. His final wish, just one hour before execution, is to be married.

Enter strolling players Elsie Maynard and Jack Point, a jester who is in love with her. Elsie agrees to be Colonel Fairfax’s bride, but chaos ensues when he is allowed to escape. Fairfax then successfully woos Elsie and all eventually ends in joy unconfined for nearly everyone, except the tragic jester.

Sullivan’s music subtly balances drama, comedy and pathos. Jack Point and Elsie’s I Have a Song to Sing,O! and Philip Lee’s rendering of Colonel Fairfax’s song Is Life a Boon? are more likely to bring a tear than a smile. Natalie Montakhab’s lovely performance of Elsie’s operatic scena Tis Done! I am a Bride, tempers fleeting happiness with sorrow. Jack Point’s patter song Oh! A Private Buffoon is a Light Hearted Loon reveals the underlying sadness of the jester in Richard Gauntlett’s nimble portrayal of the central character.

Fortunately, comic relief is at hand in Point’s “Cock and Bull” scene with Matthew Kellett’s earthy head Jailer, Wilfred Shadbolt and with Mae Heydorn’s Phoebe, the sparky daughter of Sergeant Meryll. He is played by distinguished veteran savoyard Bruce Graham. Gaynor Keeble is superb as the matriarchal Dame Carruthers, the no nonsense Housekeeper. Stephen Page brings his commanding presence to Sir Richard Cholmondeley, Lieutenant of the Tower.

Andrew Nicklin’s new production for the National G&S Opera Company effectively dresses the stage with the entire cast, resplendent in medieval costumes. The grandeur of Sullivan’s choral and orchestral writing is admirably realised by the Chorus and National Festival Orchestra conducted by Timothy Burke.

Geoffrey Mogridge