Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
Nuffield Theatre,
July 2012
Director: Shaun Dodimead
Cast List
Sir Richard Cholmondeley
Colonel Fairfax
Sergeant Meryll
Leonard Meryll
Jack Point
Wilfred Shadbolt
Elsie Maynard
Phoebe Meryll
Dame Carruthers
First Yeoman
Second Yeoman
First Citizen
Second Citizen

Notes on this performance

119. The Yeomen of the Guard 

With see-through walls…

Shaun Dodimead had initially accepted the offer to direct Patience and had made plans to set it in the world of Gok Wan and ‘fashion gurus’.  However, having given the project some thought, he decided that this theme was already out of date and suggested a production of The Yeomen of the Guard instead. Patience never sells very well and, as MD Nigel Finch was also happy with the change, the Committee sanctioned it - provided he was not moving the storyline to a Rwandan prison camp or similar! It was, after all, also going to the Buxton International G&S Festival. 

Although Shaun’s production of Yeomen was essentially traditional, there were some interesting deviations from the norm. Elsie Maynard and Colonel Fairfax were no longer the usual upright characters as both now had a dark side and were very much looking out for their own interests - the opera ended with Fairfax stabbing Point!

A lot of significant action in Yeomen takes place off stage and is then related to the audience by dialogue, so Shaun attempted to improve this situation. He arranged for Phil Moody to build a set that contained Fairfax’s cell, the front wall of which would become transparent by adjusting the lighting, allowing the audience to look in. Thus, they were able to actually see Fairfax marrying the blindfolded Elsie and watch him disguising himself as a Yeoman and escaping. In Southampton, there were many comments of approval about the ‘extra action’ but the adjudicator in Buxton thought it distracting. The overture was also used for the company to act out the three days prior to the beginning of the story (as described in the libretto). This sequence ended with ‘the fire in the Beauchamp’ and the acting must have been good because on hearing the cry  “Fire!” one of the Nuffield staff rushed to evacuate the theatre! 

The adjudicator also did not like the Director playing Jack Point, but this was very much a last resort and was agreed because other potential jesters were not available. Many actually described his performance as one of the most touching that they had seen but in Buxton, it was considered ‘not jolly enough’. However, the Echo reviewer disagreed: ‘Colonel Fairfax (a big performance in every way from Mike Pavitt) is unjustly awaiting execution. Hurriedly married to protect his estate, he is released disguised as a Beefeater. David Tatnall is his usual confident self as head-jailor Wilfred Shadbolt and Vicky Wilson has a big part and impresses as Phoebe Meryll, in love with Fairfax. Alison Vincent (Elsie Maynard) has a really nice voice, but like many of the cast, loses clarity on many occasions, perhaps due to the theatre’s acoustics. Director Shaun Dodimead is very funny as unlucky-in-love jester Jack Point and Katy Lewis displays a great talent for character acting as crusty housekeeper Dame Carruthers. Phil Moody’s simple, effective set was complemented by excellent lighting and Nigel Finch led a capable orchestra.’

Show week began with possibly the poorest SOS tickets sales ever, but word of an ‘entertaining Yeomen’ must have spread as there were over 300 ‘walk-ups’ during the week. Unfortunately, it still lost £2448 – perhaps Patience would have fared better? 

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Dame Carruthers 

Vicky Wilson (Phoebe Meryll) and Katy Lewis (Dame Carruthers)

Photo of Fairfax

Mark Allen (Sir Richard Cholmondeley), Matthew Harris (Second Yeoman), Mike Pavitt (Colonel Fairfax), Dan O'Farrell (First Yeoman)

Photo of Point

Alison Vincent (Elsie Maynard) and Shaun Dodimead (Jack Point)

Photo of Hero

David Tatnall (Wilfred Shadbolt) is cheered watched by Jonathan Fulcher (Sergeant Meryll)

Photo of Confused

David Tatnall (Wilfred Shadbolt) with Vicky Wilson (Phoebe Meryll)

Photo of Ending

Mike Pavitt (Colonel Fairfax) stabs Shaun Dodimead (Jack Point)