As one of the most beloved poems of all time, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott, is not to be tampered with lightly. Thankfully, the Early Arts Guild of Victoria’s presentation of the ballad gives it the loving care it deserves.
Dressed in stunning period costumes, surrounded by such period instruments as a harpsichord and a fidel (similar to a cello), the performers look the part. This is to be no mere recitation; a meticulously chosen selection of music, songs and dances from the eighteenth and nineteenth century accompany each verse, assisting the audience’s emotional journey.
Actress Annabel Green’s performance is timed to perfection. Her clear diction and expressive body allows the poem’s romantic visual imagery to take centre stage. A notable aspect of Green’s performance is her use of gesture, taught to her by the Guild’s Artistic Director, Helga Hill, herself a former pupil of the late Dene Barnett. An almost forgotten eighteenth-century art, gesture enables Green to reinforce the verses’ meaning with a subtle physicality, as they may often have been in Tennyson’s own time.
Also skilled in the art of gesture is vocalist Rebecca Moret. Her rendition of John Dowland’s Time Stands Still beautifully captures the Lady of Shalott’s isolation. Her interpretation of the well-known When I am laid and Chorus from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, is also deserving of mention. Dressed in black from head-to-toe, with a black veil enveloping the upper half of her body, Moret provides a mournful but beautiful compliment to the tragic final verse of Tennyson’s poem.
Integral to the presentation are the musicians of the Early Music Consort of Melbourne and the Rippon Lea Baroque Dancers. It is not often that we are privileged enough to witness dances from the Baroque era, or to hear music from the Renaissance performed on period instruments. Early instruments present a whole host of unusual challenges to those who dare play them individually in private, let alone together in public. Despite a couple of false starts, the Consort successfully master these difficulties, and are at their best during the more rhythmic works. Not to be outdone, the Baroque dancers, dressed in white wigs and impressively detailed garments, are a feast for the eyes. Their delicate arm movements, so distinctive of the Baroque period, light footwork and clear floor patterns offer a fascinating insight into another world.
The Early Arts Guild of Victoria’s The Lady of Shalott is a poignant presentation of Tennyson’s famous ballad. Offering a unique window into Western culture, the tireless efforts of this not-for-profit organisation are to be applauded and supported. If you’re an arts-lover living in Victoria, and you haven’t seen this group perform, you’re missing out.
Presented by The Early Arts Guild of Victoria in assoc. with Bayside City Council
Director: Helga Hill
Upcoming programmes from the Early Arts Guild of Victoria include:
Sights and Sounds of the Renaissance Courts 1550-1625, Bairnsdale Uniting Church, cnr. Great Alpine and Lanes Roads, Sunday May 30th, 2.15pm.
Heimatland – The German Heritage 1450-1750
National Gallery of Victoria, Sunday August 8, 1pm and 3pm
National Gallery of Victoria, Sunday August 22nd, 1pm and 3pm
Brighton Town Hall, Wilson St, Brighton, Sunday September 5th, 2.15 pm
For more information and a more detailed list of upcoming events,visit the Early Arts Guild of Victoria’s website at