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Review of The Yeomen Of The Guard performed at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton by the Northampton Gilbert & Sullivan Group

My first and only encounter to date with a live Gilbert & Sullivan production came with last years The Mikado from the Northampton G&S Group and this year I was back for their 2016 production a little more aware of what to expect. I knew a small amount about The Mikado before seeing the show, however The Yeomen Of The Guard was utterly unknown territory to me, and this was much how I preferred to find my theatre.

At the outset during a very long overture much of the cast gathers upon the stage and goes about their washing, spinning and bread making business while a couple of yeomen guard a prisoner, Colonel Fairfax (Phil Abbott), rather cleverly appears at both theatre boxes during the intro giving equal opportunity to the audience members to observe his exercising and flexing his muscles. Also being very observant of the Colonel is Phoebe (Georgia Grande), daughter of yeomen of the guard Sergeant Meryll (Mike Gray). The opening song When Maiden Loves sung wonderfully by Grande makes it clear that her love lies very much at Fairfax's door.

Grande is one of a number of superb performances in the show for me and quite a star in the making. She effortlessly performs the songs, but also has a quite glorious range of facial expressions as well as well  as perfect coming timing. Her asides to the audience are a thing to behold I do fink! One of the other stars is that of  Paul Darnell as the head jailer Wilfred Shadbolt, gruff of face with deadpan humour, he is quite brilliant and his scene with Grande during Were I Thy Bride is a perfectly magical comic moment.

Also a perfect pairing is that of Simon Crask as jester Jack Point and Rachel Bedford as his companion singer. They work excellently together with Crask playing the constant fool and showing also nice comic timing as only a jester should. Bedford meanwhile for my own limited knowledge of opera has possibly the strongest voice of the cast. Her solos hold simply amazing power and resonated with ease around the auditorium.

The songs are a mixture of standard fair and to me nowhere near as strong as those of The Mikado. I did however love I Have A Song To Sing O which has a simply wonderful magical tune to it and was perhaps the only one I took with me on leaving the theatre. There is also no way I could not love Rapture! Rapture! which was performed to comic mastery by Mike Gray and his Dame Carruthers (Susan Drake).

Direction from Leon Berger keeps the action moving on the single set stage. moving the action upstage and downstage to nice effect. Musical director David Chambers works wonders with his talented twelve piece orchestra in the tightly packed Royal pit creating clear but never obtrusive music.

So a wonderful entertaining evening, and a long one as the full uncut show is provided. However the attention is kept throughout due to a superbly crafted performance from all of the cast and if you haven't ventured into the world of opera before, I think this would be the perfect comically charged way of doing so.



Performance reviewed: Thursday 10th March, 2016 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.

The Yeomen Of The Guard runs until Saturday 12th March, 2016 at the Royal & Derngate, details here: 
http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/Productions/290220/249488/Yeoman16?view=Standard

For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

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