Star rating: *****
One of the few Gilbert & Sullivan operettas I’d not seen was Ruddigore and it’s become a firm favourite following the show-stopping production brought to Malvern Theatres by the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company.
Directed by Cav. Vivian. J. Coates, choreographed by Mary MacDonagh it’s everything I expect a Gilbert & Sullivan piece to be, witty, tongue-in-cheek, overt humour with modern references appropriately added. Brexit is naturally the go-to present day addition in the script! The choreography of this production is particularly notable, from ensemble numbers to duets, the dancing is eye-catching and beautifully executed.
Ruddigore itself is a complex, interwoven story with ‘pantomime villain’ characterisation at the centre of the tale. The story revolves around Robin Oakapple, who has been living as a farmer for years, working up the courage to ask the beautiful village maiden Rose Maybud for her hand. He is hiding a secret, he is actually Sir Ruthven, the Baronet of Ruddigore, and has been hiding in disguise while his younger brother Despard assumed the title, and the curse. With Richard Dauntless, Robin’s foster brother also on the scene and in love with Rose Maybud and Mad Margaret hot on the trail of Despard, her one true love – it’s like an olden day bedroom farce!
Bradley Travis plays Robin Oakapple (Sir Ruthven) and he’s exceptional in the part, his rich vocal tone lends itself to such numbers as My Eyes Are Fully Open which was my favourite and featured Despard (Matthew Siveter) and Mad Margaret (Mae Heydorn). Siveter was clearly in his element as Despard, making a grand entrance as a cunning, dastardly cad who would rival Dick Dastardly from the children’s television series ‘Wacky Races’! He was a superb match for Heydorn who grabbed my attention as Mad Margaret – the timing of the line delivery as well as the visual comedy she brought to the role were just a few of Heydorn’s strengths in taking on the role. Rosanna Harris brought a quirky, air-headed quality to Rose a she dilly dallied around falling in love at the drop of her etiquette book which was forever in her grasp. Her Aunt, Dame Hannah was played by Gaynor Keeble who was every inch the stern, over-seeing senior, most put out at having been carried off to fulfil a daily crime which Sir Ruthven was bound to commit later in the show.
With an ensemble who each individually have exquisite voices, all of which I could hear with such clarity – the females of the ensemble all giggled in excitable unison as they scurried around waiting to be bridesmaid to somebody, anybody! The male members in the ensemble all made fine sailors and later in the piece they were notable as Ruthven’s ancestors.
If you’re a fan of Gilbert & Sullivan’s works, I highly recommend you go and see this extraordinary company.
Book your tickets for the remaining performances of the various productions in the G & S Festival (in Harrogate), here: http://www.gsfestivals.org/gs-opera-company/
Photo Credits: Jane Stokes