IT was another seamlessly superb production by the Jersey Gilbert and Sullivan Society this year, whose members presented Ruddigore.
In terms of popularity, Ruddigore always seems to be top of the ‘Second Eleven’ of G&S productions. There is, for example, some excellent high quality music by Sullivan, and a patter-song (perhaps the best-known piece) but perhaps not so many memorable tunes as in, say, HMS Pinafore or The Mikado.
But as always, there is a timelessness about G&S, and in the case of Ruddigore it is the fact that the original performance fell foul of the ‘PC’ of their own age: the title ‘Ruddigore’ was deemed to be well, not quite pretty. It sounded a bit too much like an unmentionable swear word with which it rhymed, especially as the title was originally spelled ‘Ruddygore’. Men, critics said, might be privately amused by it in the safety of their own clubs and smoking rooms, but ladies…? Oh dear.
Gilbert denied any confusion between ‘ruddy’ and ‘bloody’ when he told a carping female critic: ‘When I say “I like your ruddy cheek”, I do not refer to your bloody cheek!’.
And if that sort of thing makes us smile about those silly old Victorians (the era, not the VCJ old boys), let us remember how equally silly we can be about words that these days are deemed to be un-PC in some absurd way.
Then Dick Dauntless’ song, ‘Parley-voo’, was criticised by the London theatre correspondent of Le Figaro who found it insulting to the French… an exponent of PC born before his time. All in all, the cloud at the birth of the opera has never quite dispelled – a witches’ curse indeed.
The plot is a skit on the popular melodramas of the day: bold bad baronets, haunted castles, maidens going mad because of thwarted love… all transformed by G&S into a light, amusing, musical and lively extravaganza, which was produced in accomplished style by the cast and orchestra.
Mark Bond stole the show as Sir Roderick Murgatroyd, and Michael Blackie was excellent as Sir Despard Murgatroyd, Richard Joynt was strong in the role of Dick Dauntless. On the ladies’ side, Judy Egrê played a notable Dame Hannah Trusty. But all the cast were immaculate and it made for a most enjoyable evening out.
A light-hearted comedy, and a good final tune to hum at the end of the evening – those ‘silly old Victorians’ could teach us something, there.
Ruddigore was directed by John Shield; musical director was Annette Blanchet and the choreographer was Sue Guenier. The principal cast members in full: ‘Robin Oakapple’, Will Millow; Richard Dauntless, Richard Joynt; Sir Despard Murgatroyd, Michael Blackie; Adam Goodheart, Ian Dove; Rose Maybud, Kelly Watson; Mad Margaret, Nicki Austin; Dame Hannah Trusty, Judy Egrê; Zorah, Kate McCaffrey; Ruth, Anne-Marie Neale; Sir Roderick Murgatroyd, Mark Bond.
The production was sponsored by Moore Stephens.