Tuesday, March 5

The Yeomen of the Guard – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

A massive production, with a cast of over 60, a purpose-built two-storey set, glorious costumes and a full orchestra tries, mostly successfully, to breathe life into this rarely staged comic opera, and had some real bright moments amongst Gilbert’s dark libretto.

Like snow falling on a bright day, there seems barely enough time to appreciate the full extent of the massive effort expended here, by the institution that is Edinburgh Gilbert and Sullivan Society, before the so-brief run ends in just two days time.

The story follows Colonel Fairfax, war hero, wrongly imprisoned and sentenced to death for sorcery. When he escapes, helped by an old war buddy, it leads to some farcical situations with young ladies and hiding in plain sight as one of the Yeomen of the Guard. Meanwhile two strolling players, jester Jack Point and his sidekick Elsie Maynard become embroiled in the unfolding drama.

There is plenty of humour of the dark and Elizabethan variety. Think Blackadder set to music and you get the rough idea. In short it is a rather odd experience, but one which all music aficionados should seriously consider adding to their lexicon, if nothing else to give perspective to the ubiquitous modern musicals.

Leah Kincer-Christie shines in both acting and singing as principal Pheobe Meryll and is a natural comedienne, her rubber-faced expressions and physicality make her very watchable. Chief pursuer of Pheobe through the first and second acts, Nathan Auerbach is hilarious as the rather dim but loveable Head Jailer and Assistant Tormentor, Wilfred Shadbolt. 

The undoubted star of the show however is the crystal-voiced soprano Lorna Murray, playing the strolling Singer, Elsie, just as the dynamic duo would have wanted. Like a bell, ringing against the heavenly domed ceiling of the theatre – no artificial amplification required. 

Whilst the production is a bit patchy in places and perhaps over long, it does get there in the end, and the music under the very capable direction of David Lyle is simply sublime.

As EDGAS approaches its 100th year of existence, next year, it faces the difficult balancing act of trying to make these performances relevant and attractive to new audiences as well as old, whilst honouring and promoting the works of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. And that is never going to be easy.

Running time – 2hrs 45 mins including 15min interval

Reviewer: Greg Holstead

Reviewed: 23rd February 2023

North West End UK Rating: ★★★