Performers put their mark on operetta

FLYING GLAGS: Max TayloR (playing Sir Walter Raleigh and Nic Wilson (Earl of Essex) flank Lesley Kraushaar (Bessie Throckmorton), back, and Liz McKenzie (Queen Elizabeth).
FLYING GLAGS: Max TayloR (playing Sir Walter Raleigh and Nic Wilson (Earl of Essex) flank Lesley Kraushaar (Bessie Throckmorton), back, and Liz McKenzie (Queen Elizabeth).

Patriotic performers are waving the flag for England in a production which is celebrating the Queen’s diamond jubilee.

Matlock Gilbert and Sullvan Society’s upcoming show is Merrie England, a comic operetta which is rarely performed nowadays.

Director Nic Wilson, who lives in Bakewell where the production will be staged this month, said: “I have never seen it in the 16 years since I moved here.

“Merrie England is unashamedly patriotic. It is the sort of thing you might have heard in the 1940s when England stood defiant alone.”

“It is relevant for today for evoking a sense of community.”

Nic is also playing the role of Earl of Essex. He said: “The Earl is the nearest anyone comes to being a baddie.”

Keeping up its proud tradition, the company will make this production of Merrie England its own, largely through the efforts of one of the cast members.

A labour of love by Max Taylor, who plays Sir Walter Raleigh, has seen the original production adapted to suit the small society.

Max said: “The original piece was very long with a total of 25 principal characters, an awful lot of whom have no relevance to the story. I have cut down the characters, left out bits that weren’t relevant and taken out some of the humour that people may have found funny when it was first performed but wouldn’t nowadays.

“We have eight musicians so I have also gone for a chamber-like approach to the sound.

“To emulate the whole orchestra would have sounded feeble.”

Max, who lives in Walton, Chesterfield, spent five hours a day for ten months adapting the libretto and music. He said: “I have loved doing it”

His current challenge is learning lines for his role as Sir Walter Raleigh. “So much effort has been outlaid on this that I am determined that I am going to make it work as well as possible,” he said.

Merrie England runs at the Medway Centre, Bakewell, from June 14-16. Tickets cost £10; available from Carole Pilkington, tel. (01246) 207893, the venue, tel. 01629 813638 or members of the society.

Merrie England will also be performed by the Matlock society at the Pavilion Arts Centre, Buxton, on July 29 as part of the Buxton International G&S Festival. Call 0845 127 2190 or www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk

l For more on this story, see the Derbyshire Times published June 7, 2012.