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The Lowry is now a regular venue for this society. Over the years adapting to a new type of performing space began as a challenge. Now the company is using and working the space to its advantage.
The stage setting was simple but it was extremely effective. The overall concept was to create and make a Victorian Pollock Toy Theatre come to life so that the toy theatre becomes reality. Everything about the creation was very stylish and the design was echoed by movement, by the costumes, and the props.
Five musicians seated on stage also became part of the action. The sound they created worked hand in hand with the overall concept. All the musical numbers were fully performed which added to the dramatic narrative.
That this concept worked proves just how well-crafted are the “Savoy Operas”, when they can be staged in so many different ways and yet loose none of their charm or lasting appeal.
A plethora of experienced principals and ensemble players worked gathered to deliver the gothic melodrama.
The fishing village of Rederring has its own corps of professional bridesmaids. Jessica Baldwin-Snow as Zorah and Nicola Rushby as Ruth, along with the other bridesmaids and chaperones, set the tone for the developing story. In the same way the villagers, bucks and blades, and ancestors fleshed out the storytelling giving credence to the melodramatic happenings.
Janice Rendel played Dame Hannah, spinster of this parish, the Murgatroyd story teller and jilted bride of Sir Roderic. Janice brought out all the right attributes of old Stephen Trusty’s daughter. She is loved by Old Adam Robin Oakapple’s faithful servant. Bobby Greatorex had fun, parodying the old retainer. Hannah was eventually reunited with her Roddy-Doddy, portrayed with convincing dramatic delivery by David Parker.
There are more of the accursed Murgatroyds who have left their loves in a state of distress. Anthony Noden gave a picturesque performance as Sir Despard who is reformed to live a blameless life. During Despard’s life of crime, he encountered Mad Margaret who “loveth the bad Baronet of Ruddigore”. The effective role of “crazy Peg” was enjoyably portrayed by Valerie Green.
The rivalry for Rose Maybud’s love is shared by a British man-o’-war’s-man, Richard Dauntless, and the modesty-personified Robin, alias Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd. The dual roles of the young forthright farmer Robin, later the villain of the piece Ruthven, were captured by Stephen Othen. Daniel Metcalfe carried off the bluff; simple-hearted British Tar with aplomb.
Sweet innocent Rose Maybud (or is she?) plays off the two boys, one against the other, for her affections. The comedy was neatly delivered. With sidelong looks to the audience, and the inflections in delivery, conveyed Rose’s real character. Helen Fieldsend was clearly in the driving seat and created a well-drawn portrayal of Rose.
With all manner of supernatural entertainment on stage, television and the big screen, Ruddigore stands alongside the very best in presenting this genre. The passage of time has proved the value of Ruddigore. I am not sure that shows of a similar nature will necessarily stand the test of time in the same way.
By John Flay
2nd May 2018