Tonight kicked off the adjudicated portion of the G&S Festival 2011, with a most enjoyable Yeomen. Gillian Humphreys gave her opinion of the show, emphasizing that this was just one person's view, and that every single audience member can and should be able to do the same - so, without further ado, here's mine.
Yeomen is darker than most of the G&S operas, and has many moments of drama, rather than comedy - not that it isn't funny, but it needs to be so real. And tonight, those scenes were beautifully rendered; the characters really existed, they were not caricatures.
The set was simple, with just an elevated platform and lots of open space to use. After a stirring and beautiful overture under Andrew Nicklin's skilled direction, we were treated to a lovely-voiced Phoebe (Jessica Nicklin) on the empty stage. Shadbolt (Stephen Godward) poked around and listened to her sing, then made his presence felt. Their interaction then, and equally later on, was strongly played and energetic; Phoebe made her views on assistant tormentors quite plain. Her father Sgt Meryll (Michael Tipler) had an excellent voice, satisfactorily justifying the inclusion of "A Laughing Boy But Yesterday". As with Phoebe and Shadbolt's, the duet between Meryll and Carruthers (Christine Anson) had energy and strong character, and realistic emotion. These scenes were not played for laughs; they were played straight, by a cast and director who trusted Gilbert's words to carry the show. Dame Carruthers had a little trouble staring people down at times (even Phoebe dared to talk back to her), which may have been deliberate, but it meant that she was unable to command the stage. Her singing voice was nothing to complain of, although she was somewhat outshone by her niece Kate (Charli Baptie - not listed in the programme), whose sweet clear soprano in "Strange Adventure" and set of individual tablets elevated the first-act cipher to her second-act cruciality. But of course, when it comes to beautiful soprano voices, it is no wonder that the best was cast as Elsie; in her marble-count aria ("Tis done!"), Alexandra Saunders completely won our sympathy. (She still had a few marbles at that point - didn't lose them until later.) Later, when she had a choice of suitors, she made a definite and clear decision; there was no hesitation and no ambiguity, she chose one and not the other - and Jack Point (Alastair Massey) moved further down the path to a broken-hearted finale. Alastair's singing is not what I would normally look for in a principal G&S performer, but he is competent at patter, and his expressive acting makes up for the musical ability somewhat. Alas, for all his jesting and jumping about, he was unable to impress his new master the Lieutenant, although the audience did appreciate his jokes. Both he and the Lieutenant 9William Revels) demonstrated excellent diction, being quite audible and comprehensible even in the gallery. I have to be careful how much I say about the gentleman who will shortly be playing in our Yeomen, but he is definitely to be commended for putting on a competent performance at extremely short notice. Fairfax (Joseph Shovelton) completes a quality cast of actors and singers, bringing professional talent as well as professionalism to the stage.
I shan't try to predict which shows are most likely to win which prizes, and to a large extent it really doesn't matter. But Gillian and I both enjoyed the performance, and from the sound of the applause that greeted the extended curtain calls, so did many many others in the audience.