TITLE: Huddersfield Gilbert and Sullivan Society: The Yeomen of the Guard

VENUE: Lawrence Batley Theatre

REVIEW: William Marshall

GENERALLY regarded as the most serious, or nearly serious Gilbert and Sullivan opera, The Yeomen of the Guard – set in the Tower of London during the reign of Henry VIII – is actually quite hard to bring off.

Of course it is chock full of absurdities and farcical misunderstandings, but there are dark under-currents, a fairly earnest love story and a famously poignant ending. It is tricky to strike the right balance between sincerity and the mock earnestness that G and S normally requires.

On the whole, Graham Weston’s production steers a successful course, although there were passages where some of Gilbert’s ornate pseudo-Tudorisms seemed rather too stilted. But the frontline cast – highly experienced all of them – is excellent and, as ever, the Society’s LBT productions are a refreshing return to the pre-face mike days when vocal technique and projection were paramount.

There are some fine performances in the production. Becky Gregson-Flynn, as Phoebe, sets the standard near the beginning with singing of beautiful clarity and fresh, natural comic acting. The singing of Elaine Richmond as Elsie frequently touches standards of operatic excellence and, in the role of Colonel Fairfax, Paul Richmond’s high, light tenor and his confident stage presence are as good as ever.

Peter Skelton’s blackly comic turn as Shadbolt – played with a hint of a Brummie accent – brings an appealing element of music hall humour to the production, while the capering of Ian Grange as Jack Point strikes just the right note.

On the first night, the male chorus singing could have been lustier – considering that it comes from a bunch of Beefeaters – and the tuning wandered at times, but it warmed up. And the female chorus was exceptionally mellifluous.

This is a traditional but well-staged version of an intriguing entry into the Gilbert and Sullivan canon and it runs until Saturday, when there is also a matinee.