TULLY POTTER reviews The Yeoman Of The Guard

A sprinkle of extra wit makes these Yeoman gleam: TULLY POTTER reviews The Yeoman Of The Guard

The Yeomen Of The Guard 


The Mikado 


Of the gold-standard G&S masterpieces, The Yeomen Of The Guard can be the hardest to bring off, which makes Simon Butteriss’s achievement as director and actor-singer all the more impressive.

While honouring W.S. Gilbert’s original intentions against a traditional set, he contrives innumerable little shafts of humour to enliven what is essentially an old-fashioned escape-and-rescue opera.

It has become fashionable to make the jester Jack Point a Cockney but Butteriss’s amazingly youthful orthodox portrayal places him in the great line of comic baritones (Grossmith, Passmore, Workman, Lytton, Green and Reed). Dialogue and patter trip off his agile tongue, and he handles the transition to tragedy perfectly.

He is backed up by a superb cast: Kelli-Ann Masterson (great G&S name!) an affecting Elsie, Meriel Cunningham an amusing Phoebe, Gaynor Keeble a formidable Dame and the practised trio of Bruce Graham, Steven Page and Matthew Siveter as the sergeant, lieutenant and jailer. Stephen Anthony Brown, a personable Fairfax, seems unsure of his top register.

Of the gold-standard G&S masterpieces, The Yeomen Of The Guard can be the hardest to bring off

Emily Vine is a pert Yum-Yum in The Mikado

Sullivan’s touches of genius such as ‘I have a song to sing, O!’, ‘Like a ghost his vigil keeping’ or ‘When a wooer goes a-wooing’ are given their full measures of pathos or hilarity, as required.

Alas, the rising tide of jiggery-wokery has once again engulfed The Mikado. Jonathan Miller was the first to devise a non-Japanese production and the National G&S Opera Company has followed suit by setting it in a 1950s boys’ public school with the female chorus as hockey and lacrosse stick-brandishing St Trinian’s menaces.

It is a jolly end-of-term romp but I must remind director Sarah Helsby Hughes that too much jiggery-wokery and Millery-jokery leads to a mishery-mashery of piggery-pokery. She also violates the First Commandment: thou shalt not have distracting business in the background when the principals are trying to ‘make their numbers’.

Emily Vine is a pert Yum-Yum and Sam Marston a very promising Nanki-Poo, with Mmes Keeble and Cunningham and Messrs Butteriss — his gleeful Ko-Ko, with pointedly updated ‘little list’, all but unimpaired by his chaplain’s garb — Graham, Page and Siveter shining in their expected roles. Page takes the bass line in the Madrigal.

Under Murray Hipkin’s expert — if occasionally verging on too zippy — baton, the National Festival Orchestra and predominantly young professional chorus rise to both scores with zest and polish.

The International G&S Festival has now fully returned from unresponsive Harrogate to the delightful Buxton Opera House, celebrating its 120th anniversary. Next year will be the 30th festival. Look out for these productions — and Simon Butteriss’s take on The Pirates Of Penzance — when they go on tour.


THE G&S Festival runs until tomorrow night [Sat Aug 12], but there will be a short season in Malvern from September 7-9. Visit malvern-theatres.co.uk or ring 01684-892277 for more details

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