music by Edward German libretto by Basil Hood
Finborough Theatre 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 12 June, 2012.
Sun- Mon 7.30pm Mat Tue 2pm.
Runs 2 hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0207 244 7439.
Review: William Russell 28 May.
Carry On England.
For reasons known to heaven knows who director Alex Sutton has decided to camp up Edward German’s patriotic operetta written in 1902 for the Savoy, home of G&S, and set in the time of Good Queen Bess. It is a big mistake.
German’s score is really lovely, packed with charming ballads and rousing choruses as the villagers celebrate May Day while chasing a witch, and the Queen, who has looked in, gets annoyed because Walter Raleigh, whom she fancies, has secretly married one of her maids.
When Essex, who is pursuing the Queen, sings ‘The Yeomen of England’ you need it to be stirring stuff, patriotic to the core, a Palm Court staple – like Ivor Novello’s ‘Rose of England’ – not a gay lark for a coy, ageing toy boy performed as he is tossed about by the yeomen, who look as if the only yeoman service they could do would be behind the bar in Heaven. The tailor is particularly awful.
It is necessary to update, to titivate such material, something other directors have done successfully with many a Savoy opera, if it is to work, and there is nothing wrong with high camp, but doing it the right way is the tricky thing. Nor is it – with one or two exceptions – particularly well sung.
In the past The Finborough has rescued some ancient musicals from oblivion in its Celebrating British Music Theatre seasons, but alas this production – the first professional one for 52 years – seems designed to cast this particular work into amateur oblivion for ever – possibly no bad thing given the goings on. Elizabeth of England, which could have sounded, although offensive to other parts of her kingdom, like a Jubilee tribute to the current Elizabeth is just one more casualty. A missed opportunity to put it politely.
for cast and credits see Timothy Ramsden’s review of this production.