Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
The Guildhall,
March 1975
Director: Harold Dunford
Cast List
Sir Richard Cholmondeley
Colonel Fairfax
Sergeant Meryll
Leonard Meryll
Jack Point
Wilfred Shadbolt
The Headsman
First Yeoman
Second Yeoman
First Citizen
Second Citizen
Elsie Maynard
Phoebe Meryll
Dame Carruthers

Notes on this performance

48. The Yeomen of the Guard                                                                                                                                                                   

Yeomen storm the Bargate…

The 50th Anniversary had been celebrated with a change of name (now Southampton Operatic Society), a dinner dance, a reception for 300 people representing 21 societies, a concert with the British Concert Orchestra (another, with SMS and planned for the Gaumont, did not come to fruition) and Orpheus in the Underworld so one imagines that the Committee breathed a sigh of relief that they could return to a more normal existence. Unfortunately, in the world of ‘am-dram’ nothing is ever that simple.

The main problem to arise was the Council’s decision to run the Guildhall on the lines of a commercial theatre - this meant their box office would require 7.5% commission on all sales. They would now provide stewards and programme sellers (and take 10% commission). They would also be selling their own ice creams (SOS had always done this) and would provide extra staff for the bars, restaurant and general safety of the venue - not only would this mean an increase in the hire charges, but also would restrict the Front of House team to simply welcoming patrons..

When it comes to attracting audiences, The Yeomen of the Guard is an unpredictable opera and, after losing a substantial amount on Orpheus, the Committee was rather nervous. However, the directing team of Harold Dunford and Jill Meager, coupled with the talent at their disposal, guaranteed a good show – it just needed to sell well… 

A month before opening night, ticket sales were poor so other societies and pensioner clubs were offered special rates and, as the costumes arrived on the Friday, the men were persuaded to dress up as yeomen and publicise the show by parading down the High Street to the Bargate  - as hoped, the Echo published a photograph of the event.

The review concentrated on pairs and praised Jill Meager and Barabara Noyce for producing ‘a well balanced orchestra, brisk and alert but never allowed to overpower the singers,’ Turning to the principals, it claimed, ‘As Elsie, the strolling singer, Jillian Charnley, delighted with her strong, clear and well-focused soprano voice; Colonel Fairfax, her opposite number, was creditably played by John Hoskins.  Pamela Hoskins brought Phoebe, the Yeoman’s daughter, to life with natural acting and singing, and was well complemented by head jailor Wilfred Shadbolt, performed by bass Dennis Gooch with a fine sense of theatre. The other pair, Sergeant Meryll and Dame Caruthers, were in the expert hands of established Southampton favourites Bernard Harman and Gillian Dando.’ Having exhausted the theme of pairs, he added, ‘Jack Point, the strolling jester, supplies the humour and pathos, and Peter Robson squeezed every last drop: a superb professional portrayal. The supporting leads included Michael Davies, George Brown, Eric Miles, Peter Hill and Margaret Kitch.’

Parading round the city centre in costume must have had the desired effect because Yeomen of the Guard made a profit of £253.43. The tradition of making a donation to charity seems to have been replaced by creating life members – this year it was Philip Graham who had just resigned as Treasurer, a position he had held since 1937!

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Point

Peter Robson (Jack Point), John Hoskins (Colonel Fairfax), Jillian Charnley (Elsie Maynard)

 LB books dog

Coming to you in January 2022!