Thursday, 8 August 2013

Savoynet: Yeomen of the Guard - adjudication

It's my pleasure now to hand over to the Festival Adjudicator, David Turner.

After that splendid overture, we had a very arresting opening scene, with an impression of life in the tower, proving it wasn't just a place of fear. Here was a Phoebe with something on her mind, and the solo had a different quality.
Her playful time with Wilfred was - a little unexpected! Maybe he was going to be a port in a storm. Maybe she would need him at some stage. But when she was reminded of Fairfax, poor Wilfred disappeared from her thoughts, and her whole attitude changed.

We saw tonight some exceptional, sensitive direction. It was absolutely, beautifully done. I used to be the one you had to be careful what shoes you wore, but I think in this festival I seem to be very concerned with hands, and the hands in nearly every instance tonight were beautiful. They were natural, and you're only natural when you are secure in what you're doing. I thought the attention to detail was quite exceptional, and I knew it was so fairly early on, because Fairfax said "I am ready, good fellows (sigh)", and it was the sigh which said it all - it wasn't just the words.

There were some very impressive company scenes tonight; I thought the arrangements for yeomen and citizens was exceptional and interesting. They didn't look like they'd just arrived on the river bus, it was real. Groupings and placings were skilled, and it gave everybody the opportunity to react and contribute.

It's quite wonderful, really, to have something as familiar as yeomen, and yet tonight experience from it a new experience. I really wanted Phoebe and Wilfred to get together! (laugh) I was in his corner all the time, bless him! I liked the freedom of the scene when Fairfax met his fellow yeomen. It's usually played in a rather starchy sort of style, but here tonight it seemed spontaneous, and that gave it another quality. It gave Fairfax the opportunity to mingle and realistically greet his colleagues. It was an act one finale that was full of good things - warmth, affection, and drama. And a final curtain that gave us something to think about.

The opening of act two had a good sense of realism, and a high level of emotion. That chorus had purpose, and this concentration of emotion at the beginning of the second act carried all way through; there's a lot of deep, deep moving moments, and they were all seized. I haven't made a single note about the finale of act two, it's much too moving. I just watched it and - was moved. And so one should be. His heart breaks. And there were many occasions tonight when you knew Point was hopelessly in love with her.

Musical direction: there was a lot to rejoice tonight. Chorus work for citizens and yeomen was well developed and very secure. The principals' work was of a very high standard, and I loved the passion in the act one finale. I loved the beauty of Strange Adventure, and I loved the sadness of When a Wooer Goes A-Wooing.

Costumes were magnificent; I think Leonard Meryll came in at the end of queue, but that's not his fault, bless him; all the others were fairly impressive, I think he could have thrown wobbly and said "I'm not wearing that hat"! (laugh) But they were very much in period, very sympathetic. Lighting was exceptional tonight; it was exceptional because it changed greatly and you probably never noticed - that is skill, of course, and that skill was put to very good use. Makeup was good, and props also.

The characters. We had a galaxy of wonderful characters tonight!
* Sir Richard, first of all. I thought it was a very good production innovation to include the Lieutenant in the opening chorus. He usually comes on a little bit later and has to work quite hard to establish himself. Not tonight; he was there amongst them, seeing what they were getting up to, and establishing his authority. We knew where he stood from the outset. Authority oozed from him, and I thought the scene with Point had a lovely mixture of exasperation and amusement. Excellent dialogue, I heard every syllable.
* Col Fairfax. This Fairfax was created with skill. So often - not always, but quite lot of times - I've hated Fairfax, I end up thinking he's monster, that he puts Elsie through SUCH terrible emotions. But I didn't feel he was a womanizer tonight. I loved his sympathy, and I loved that kind, comforting embrace with Phoebe. There was nothing saucy about it, you know - "meet me in the white tower in ten minutes" - it was sincere and it was genuine. The character portrayed tonight, as it should be, was a man of quality and breeding. Is Life a Boon - beautifully sung, and what a glorious voice. Free from his Fetters - calmly delivered. A Prisoner Still - oh! I hope you felt that! Wealth of emotion contained there, and amongst all his mischief he says (sincere tone) "Elsie! I did but jest!". Often it's said (casual tone) "Elsie, I did but jest.". Tonight it was given the full treatment.
* Sgt Meryll - a totally believable old soldier and father figure. He is the keenest of observers; he has to be with that family. (laugh) An aspect we rarely see is a level of concern. The trio "Alas I waver" - he combined those words with nervous glances, anxious moments; it made us feel the danger. And the emotion which he has to fall back on, on a number of occasions, was from theheart.
* Leonard Meryll - very little opportunity to shine, it's a very small role, but he did a very good job, and he clearly delivered the important plot, and he effectively - of course - sang the tenor line in the trio.
* Jack Point - well, an engaging personality, he made an impact on his first appearance; enormous energy, and his slightly hidden love coming gently to the surface. Very athletic, and some funny antics with Wilfred which gave a nice comic respite. "He loves her right well" - not just words, sensitivity. A lovely moment - he probably wasn't aware of it - you may not have been! - a lovely moment of great sadness when he's holding Elsie's hand, in the act two trio, and oh! his face, and she gradually withdraws it, and devastation starts to come in.
* Wilfred Shadbolt - well I wrote two, no three words, initially: "cuddly and clean". He was a very appealing character, which is unusual. How I listened afresh tonight to lines given a new slant! Thought that opening solo he did very well indeed, and it added to his stature. He had a simple naivete that was always appealing. I've a feeling that although he had Phoebe's hand, her heart was just around the corner. How could she resist such an old pussycat!
* Elsie Maynard. A glorious performance; a special performance, because she was Elsie. A beautiful, powerful voice, with such emotion. Very much the gypsy. It was for me strangely emphasized even more in her wedding gown. Her input in emotional act two quartets and the wedding finale was exceptional.
* Phoebe - a well studied performance; yes, she is a little minx, her youth colored her approach to life, and I think if she was nice initially to Wilfred, her attitude was "any port in storm", but she had special qualities when you knew she had double thinking there - sometimes she played in a distracted manner because her thoughts were with Fairfax.
* Dame Carruthers - what a splendid Dame Carruthers. In the dialogue before the aria, right at beginning, she did more than deliver lines. She was busy, she had authority, she had conflicting opinions of the prisoners, and most important, she cast fear. Her line was - and she put the pause in - "Silence (pause) you silly girl!" Ooh! It was there. Beautifully done. A wonderful exit with such purpose at end of that. Lovely hands, they just beautifully shaped.
* Kate - rather fussy Kate, making her best impact in the quiet moments of observation, and of course she was a very important soprano input to a very special Strange Adventure.

When I was packing to come, a week last Monday, I went to get my suitcase out of my box room. To go into my box room is an experience. I don't know where it all came from. But underneath most of it was my suitcases, which I pulled out under a shower of books and things sliding off shelves, making me say "it's time I got rid of all this stuff". And I picked up a folly stick. And I thought, "My goodness! It must be thirty-five years ago". I went to Ireland to take part in a training weekend for young people creating theatre. And I was allocated The Yeomen of the Guard. Act one, didn't have to do act two. We arrived on Friday evening at Gurteen Agricultural College, and we finished Sunday afternoon with a public performance. It was a pretty exhausting couple of days, and I had a very tight schedule, and I had to get to Dublin to pick up a certain plane, otherwise I was in trouble. So we all finished, and I grabbed my things, and the taxi came and I got in, and we were going down the drive, and suddenly someone came running alongside the car, and it was my Jack Point. Through the open window he said "Keep this"; it was the folly stick. And I've kept it, and it's going to be more prominent place than under all that debris in my box room! And that's part of tonight. It's part of outreach. Because this is twentieth year of this festival, some of us that were there in the beginning have been thinking back to people and events, and one of the most memorable for me was to go to the Zellerbach Theater in San Francisco, and I was backstage, which is unusual for pre-show, and I was amazed because I had a really new experience. The stage was all set (I don't remember the opera but the stage was set), and people came from everywhere - from the dressing rooms as actors - from the orchestra pit before the overture - one or two from out front - makeup staff, wig staff, general electricians, and so on - and they all came together, in middle of that stage, and without a word from a soul, they joined hands, and they stood for a couple minutes, no speaking, but giving to each other strength. Well, I think the Savoynetters tonight have joined hands, and stretched out, and made links. They've caused us to rejoice in this most beautiful of the operas, and I think we will go away with a lot to be thankful for.
Applause. Exit.

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