Tuesday 24 February 2015

Ruddigore: or the Witches Curse

Ruddigore -Sir Rupert Murgatroyd- Dame Hannah (Amy J Payne) with the Bridesmaids (Andrea Tweedale and Susanna Buckle) Photo Bill Knight.jpg
Dame Hannah (Amy J Payne)
with the Bridesmaids
(Andrea Tweedale and Susanna Buckle)
Photo Bill Knight
Gilbert & Sullivan Ruddigore; Charles Court Opera; Kings Head Theatre
Reviewed by Hilary Glover on Feb 18 2015
Star rating: 4.0

Hammer-horror style revival of G&S classic in intimate theatre

A collection of celebrations in Islington surrounded last night's spookily funny performance of 'Ruddigore' by the Charles Court Opera company. It was the 10th anniversary of the founding of Charles Court Opera, formed in 2005 by its Artistic Director John Savournin, and also the 45th year of the Kings Head Theatre set up by Dan Crawford in 1970.

Ruddigore - Mad Margaret (Cassandra McCowan) and Rose Maybud (Rebecca Moon) Photo Bill Knight
Mad Margaret (Cassandra McCowan)
and Rose Maybud (Rebecca Moon)
Photo Bill Knight
The Kings Head Theatre proudly claim that they were the first pub theatre since Shakespeare's day - in a pub which can trace its roots back to 1543 (although it was rebuilt in around 1864). The theatre was constructed in a space previously used as a pool hall and boxing ring, and a revamp in 2007-2008 increased the stage size, and seating capacity, and converted the tills of the pub to decimal currency.

Last night each of these seats was filled – with a certain amount of jockeying for position (some of the aisle seats are very small).

Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) and William Schwenck Gilbert (1836-1911) produced some 14 comic operas between 1871 and 1896. Hot on the heels of their 1885 triumph 'The Mikado' the pair produced 'Ruddygore' in 1887 – but it was not a critical success, having very mixed reviews. After the opening night the plot was reworked to remove some of the more troubling elements, such as ghosts coming back to life, and even the title changed to the less horrific 'Ruddigore'. It was not revived until after the First World War when further changes were made and a new overture commissioned. This 'failure' (can 288 performances really be called a failure?) was a further cause of creative quarrel between Gilbert and Sullivan but as with 'The Mikado' they again quickly patched up their differences producing 'The Yeomen of the Guard' in 1888.

RUDDIGORE - Sir Despard (John Savournin) Photo Bill Knight
Sir Despard (John Savournin)
Photo Bill Knight
Unlike 'The Mikado' where sections are rewritten and updated each performance to satirise contemporary events, this production of 'Ruddigore' was played straight so that they could explore in more detail gothic horror stylistic elements, and the chosen Hammer Horror theme fitted in very well with the play. Cassandra McCowan (last seen as Pitti-Sing in the Mikado) as Mad Meg was a typically unhinged heroine (all wild hair and floaty dress) and John Savournin's (Sir Despard Murgatroyd) vampiric posturing struck exactly the right tone.

Rebecca Moon (Rose Maybud) and Amy J Payne (her aunt) played their uptight heroines with style, while Andrea Tweedale and Susie Buckle (the perennial bridesmaids) carried a large amount of the comedy with their trite arm-ography and ever hopeful 'Hail the bridegroom'.

RUDDIGORE - Rose Maybud (Rebecca Moon) and Richard Dauntless (Philip Lee) Photo Bill Knight
Rose Maybud (Rebecca Moon) and
Richard Dauntless (Philip Lee)
Photo Bill Knight
In contrast to the well behaved and moral ladies were the males roles: Matthew Kellett (Robin Oakapple/ Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd) whose ineffectual attempts to scare himself in the mirror copying Sir Despard's style were hilarious, Philip Lee (Richard Dauntless) who, while the Murgatroyds wanted to be good but were forced to be criminal, played the truly amoral character as a loveable rogue, and Simon Masterton-Smith (Old Adam) who transformed from slightly dim man servant to humpbacked Igor ready to abet in kidnapping.

All in all the performances and singing were very well done. 'Ruddigore' was fairly democratic in that everyone has their turn as a soloist (according to their part) but no one person was favoured with cadenza fancies. The music is distinctively Sullivan and trips along at a merry pace. Some parts were overtly obviously similar to the Mikado, for example 'Parley voo' and 'The punishment fits the crime'. But whether this is due to the meter of the words dictating the music rather than Sullivan reusing something that worked is a matter of opinion. The wedding madrigal was exceptionally well sung – Philip Lee dripping his frustration on each leading fa la la, contrasting with the prettiness of the blend other voices, and the duet between Amy J Payne and John Savournin 'Sing hey' was quite lovely. The orchestra was admirably supplied by Musical Director David Eaton on piano.
'Ruddigore' runs until the 14th March 2015. For an evening of light-hearted comic opera you cannot go wrong.


 Reviewed by Hilary Glover

Elsewhere on this blog:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts this month