Yeomen of the Guard

The Plot

Act 1

Our story is set within the walls of the Tower of London, in a society where cruelty and mockery are a part of everyday life. The Tower is inhabited, then as now by the much admired Yeoman of the Guard, whose masculine, soldierly life is shared by Phoebe Meryll, the flirtatious daughter of their Sergeant, and Dame Carruthers, who, with her niece Kate, is in charge of the housekeeping. Phoebe is being courted by the loathsome Wilfred Shadbolt, but her heart is set on the handsome Colonel Fairfax, a prisoner who is due to be executed on a false charge of sorcery.

Phoebe's brother Leonard returns from the wars to join the Yeomen, and Sergeant Meryll hatches a plot to free Colonel Fairfax and pass him off as his heroic son Leonard, while the real Leonard remains in hiding.

In the meantime, Fairfax, knowing nothing of this plan, makes a plan of his own. The evil kinsman who had him condemned will inherit the Fairfax estate if he should die unmarried, so Fairfax asks the Lieutenant of the Tower to find a girl who is willing to go through a marriage ceremony with him and the be widowed upon his execution.

Conveniently, two strolling players, Jack Point and Elsie Maynard, arrive at this moment, and have a hard struggle to please a rather aggressive crowd. Elsie agrees to be Fairfax's bride, and Jack, who hopes to marry her himself, gives his consent on the understanding that the marriage will only last for one hour. The marriage takes place in secret, with the bride blindfolded; Elsie receives a hundred crowns, and Jack Point is taken on as the Lieutenant's jester.

Now Phoebe and her father work their escape plan, Phoebe skilfully extracting the keys from Wilfred by subjecting him to her advanced flirting techniques. colonel Fairfax assumes the identity of Leonard Meryll and is welcomed by the Yeomen as one of themselves. A little local difficulty, which he experiences when he fails to recognise his "sister" Phoebe, is soon resolved.

Fairfax's first duty is to be on parade for his own execution, and panic ensues when it is discovered that the prisoner has escaped. The company of Yeomen shares the consternation of the spectators that there will be no execution that day, and no one is more upset than Point and Elsie, who instantly realise that Elsie is now legally married to a man she has not even seen.

Act 2

Two days have passed, and the Yeomen, comforted by the nocturnal visits of the townswomen, are no nearer finding the escaped Colonel Fairfax. Point is extremely depressed by this, as is Wilfred, whose own head is under threat if Fairfax is not found. The two of them agree to back each other up in a fabricated story of how Wilfred saw Fairfax swimming the moat and shot him dead, thus rendering Elsie a widow and enabling Point to marry her.

Meanwhile (there is always a "meanwhile" in Gilbert's plots) all is not straight forward for Elsie herself. She has fallen in love with the man she knows as Leonard Meryll, and is tormented by the thought that she is not free to marry him. Her talking in her sleep has been overheard by Dame Carruthers and Kate, who work out her secret and reveal it to "Leonard", giving him the opportunity to test Elise's code of honour.

Wilfred and Point put their plan into operation and Wilfred is hailed as a hero by the assembled crowd. Elsie now believes that Fairfax is dead, and Point prepares to ask her to marry him, but being unexperienced in such matters, asks Leonard to woo her for him. This he does, but leaves Point out of the request and gains her promise for himself. Thus Elsie is now unwittingly engaged to the very man she has already married under another name.

The marriage preparations are well under way when the real Leonard returns to the Tower with some surprising news. How will everyone react to the presence of two Leonard Merylls? Will the scheming of Sergeant Meryll and Phoebe be revealed? Might there be a price to pay for keeping their secret? And will Jack Point, the ever-professional comedian, succeed in showing everyone the funny side of the situation.

The Cast

Solo Parts Description 1998
Phoebe Meryll Charlotte Bennett
Wilfred Shadbolt Tristan Pye
Sergeant Meryll David MacTier
2nd Yeoman Royce Gay
1st Yeoman Nick Grundy
Dame Carruthers Scilla Copper
Leonard Meryll Geoff Allan
Colonel Fairfax Andrew Armstrong
Sir Richard Cholmondely Chris Bailward
Jack Point Simon Wills
Elsie Maynard Myfanwy Brember
1st Citizen Nick Presdee
2nd Citizen Pete Tasker
Kate Jessie Copper

Photos

Photos 1998

Opera Photo Opera Photo Opera Photo Opera Photo

The Music

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'A laughing boy' was removed from vocal scores, but is sometimes reinstated - midi - noteworthy