Swindon Gilbert and Sullivan Society

The Yeoman Of The Guard

Arts Centre 4th April 2017

Swindon's Gilbert And Sullivan Society, under the direction of Derek Hill and M.D, Richard Abrams, took to the Arts Centre stage with The Yeomen Of The Guard, or to give the alternative title, The Merryman and The Maid.

This story line was known as perhaps the most serious plot of Gilbert and Sullivan opera's. It premiered at the Savoy theatre on the 3rd of October 1888 and ran for 423 performances.

The opera is set in The Tower Of London during the 16th century and is the darkest and, almost certainly, the most emotionally engaging of the Savoy opera's.

In many people's opinion the score was said to be Sullivan's best. Gilbert's satire, and sometimes confusing plots, was less complicated, in comparison with other G and S opera's.

Star of this production for me was undoubtedly was Robert Felstead as Jack Point, the jester or Merryman. He has a rich singing voice and his acting ability meant he was able to carry out the intricacies of the part well. Matthew McMurray, as Colonel Fairfax, has an excellent diction for G and S and a stunning tenor voice.

I loved Stuart Benjamin's portrayal of Wilfred. The leading ladies in the production did themselves proud too. The lovely soprano voice and poise of Natalie Chequer and the natural stage presence and superb singing from Stephanie Walsh made for an entertaining evening. Other principle roles were also played well.

I have to say that I felt at times the chorus were a little out of kilter with the orchestra. I think because of where they were in front of the stage also at times they rather drowned the singing.

Good diction is one of the most important things when singing G and S. Without it the faster-paced song lyrics are lost. They must be learnt and rehearsed to perfection. I'm sure by the second show the chorus will be a little tighter. At times this wasn't the case on this first night.

A good single set, costumes and lighting made for a much smoother passage throughout helping the production move at a good pace.

Director Derek Hill did a great job of getting everyone on and off the small Arts Centre stage.

I enjoyed this production and the excellent principles. As I'm sure did the fairly small, but appreciative, audience on this Tuesday evening.

Ros Hollands