Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
The Guildhall,
March 1951
Cast List
Sir Richard Cholmondeley
Colonel Fairfax
Sergeant Meryll
Leonard Meryll
Jack Point
Wilfred Shadbolt
First Yeoman
Second Yeoman
First Citizen
Second Citizen
Elsie Maynard
Phoebe Meryll
Dame Carruthers

Notes on this performance

23. The Yeomen of the Guard

How to win friends…

The Committee of 1951 certainly knew how to upset people! To begin with they decided that all acting members should be re-auditioned every three years in order to a) improve standards and b) make room for new/younger members and then followed that up by dismissing their Producer for the past five years, John A Edwards. The reasons for this change are not recorded in the minutes, but both Mr Hughes and Mr Tomalin broke the news to him and reported that, ‘he had accepted the decision although with considerable disappointment.’ The same Alfred Tomalin was then elected as Producer for The Yeomen of the Guard and D Cecil Williams as the MD.

 It was suggested that old age pensioners and members of ‘golden age’ clubs should be invited to watch the Dress Rehearsal at the reduced price of 1shilling (5p) and, much to everyone’s surprise, nearly 1000 took advantage of the offer. No doubt they enjoyed a return to the large choruses that seemed to upset Mr Edwards so much, the number of ladies involved was a healthy 27 whilst the men numbered 17. 

1951 was the year of The Festival of Britain, a celebration to give people a feeling of recovery in the aftermath of the war, and the Southampton Festival Music Committee invited SAOS to contribute. Instead, the Committee decided to mark the occasion by staging a second show, ‘thus no special programmes can be undertaken.’

Successful trips were arranged to see The Geisha (SMS), Trial /Pirates (WOS) and The Yeomen of the Guard (Basingstoke OS) but the Supper Dance was poorly supported and the financial loss had to be made good from the Social Fund – ‘heavily depleting it’. A letter was also received from Eastleigh Operatic Society expressing concern about the exploitation of G&S operas by dance bands… 

Alfred Tomalin’s debut as a director was a success; the report in The Echo claimed that the Society is ‘maintaining the high standard which they have set in Savoy operas for many years. One can give full marks to the society’s performance. It had life, the acting was good with full regard to all the Savoy traditions, and the production slick and well-timed.’  The music did come in for some criticism though, whilst conceding that ‘The Yeomen of the Guard makes demands of an amateur company‘, he added, ‘It was indeed in the singing of some of Sullivan’s lovely tunes that I thought last night’s performance did not come quite to the mark. The chorus work was strong and the singing of several of the fine choruses particularly good, but a few of the solos fell below that standard. So well known are all these songs that comparison with professional standards is inevitable making Yeomen difficult for the amateur stage.’

The Yeomen of the Guard made a profit of £168 5s 6d (£168.28) and the Society donated £150 to charities, sharing it equally between the British Student Tuberculosis Fund, the Actors’ Church Union, St Mary’s Church Rebuilding Fund, the Infantile Paralysis Fund and NODA Rebuilding Fund - £100 was also transferred to the Society’s Building Fund towards purchasing its own premises.

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Point

Bruce Ellery (Wilfred Shadbolt) with Tom Judd (Jack Point)