SIMON Lewis reviewed Glitter & Twisted Theatre Company's recent production of Yeoman of the Guard:

“Updating Gilbert and Sullivan is a mug’s game” observed an Essex newspaper back in the early 1990s, commenting on a production of The Mikado that had reflected the late 20th century trend of modernising the Savoy Operas.

To some extent I am forced to agree. While some adaptations work well, I have seen others fall embarrassingly flat, and when it comes to The Yeomen of the Guard, the grandest of all G&S collaborations, a present-day makeover strikes me as a dangerous move.

It’s simply far too 16th-century a tale for it to work in any other guise or location.

So when I learned that enterprising director Simon Moss had reimagined it as a 1953 film shoot, I began to worry.

Thankfully, the opening night of Glitter and Twisted Theatre Company’s bold and often amusing production proved that any such misgivings were largely unfounded, and chiefly down to one prudent decision.

Commendably, they stayed true to Gilbert and Sullivan’s original concept, Yeomen Mark One, as it were, with no liberties taken with the libretto or the music score.

Draped in traditional period costumes, they presented it as a standard stage performance being made into a feature film that wasn’t that far away from an Ealing comedy.

Effectively, it was a new frame around the original painting, and it worked.

A bolt-on prologue introduced the cast members arriving at the studio, to be marshalled by the exasperated floor manager, prompting some delightful bitchiness between the leading ladies, and a stream of cinema clichés, with Mr. Moss calling the shots (and “Cut!” several times) from the middle of F row.

That done, the opera resumed its proper course, and by the second act, the cinematic angle had all but been forgotten, the point having been unequivocally made during the first, as Merrie England collided head-on with Gone With The Wind.

Matinée idol Col. Fairfax, played with real gravitas by Jon Baron, soon had all the women swooning over him, Caroline Price’s sultry Phoebe Meryll appeared to have stepped straight out of a BAFTA awards ceremony, Grace Hawker portrayed Elsie Maynard with Julie Andrews panache, while wide-eyed Jenny Nixon added a soupçon of Hollywood glamour, making Dame Carruthers look anything but an old maid.

Elsewhere on Tower Green, Rob Burbidge’s witty, almost Gyles Brandreth-ish portrayal of the Lieutenant of the Tower was an absolute joy.

I half-expected him to spout an earnest “Hello, luvvie!”, but numerous mentions of 100 crimes, sorry, crowns made for a wonderful running joke.

Resplendent in their scarlet, ER-inscribed uniforms, the tower warders looked all set to qualify as Chelsea Pensioners, hobbling around on walking sticks, but still finding the energy to indulge in a few high kicks.

A novel touch of cabaret during the interval witnessed the cast tucking into their coffee and biccies on stage, and even Good Queen Bess herself showed up at the climax to spell out the familiar dénouement.

Given the very English storyline, however, I was a tad surprised to see no structural representation of the grim old tower at all, merely a spartan set of ramps and stairs resembling a series of fire escapes, although a scrap of lawn was granted a look-in late on.

There was also a bit too much out of sync swaying at times, and some of the singing needed a good polish, but two songs, in particular, stood tall: the enchanting I Have A Song To Sing, O and the note-perfect Strange Adventure which never wavered, staying impeccably in tune from start to finish. Lovely stuff.

Of course, one eternal question hangs over any production of Yeomen: does Jack Point die at the end?

All I will say is that Simon Moss dreamed up a decidedly new, if harrowing, twist to this age-old mystery.

I have a feeling that Alan Feeney, who excelled in the role of Gilbert’s biggest anti-hero, may have made history tonight.

Mr. Moss ran him a close second, proving that, even with this unique Savoy Opera, tradition and innovation can still walk hand in hand.