BWW Review: RUDDYGORE, King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Given the ever-growing number of musicals to choose from, it is perhaps no surprise that amateur productions of Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operas have become less prevalent in recent years. It's therefore even more of a treat to witness a staging when it is performed so well and with such love and attention to detail.
Not for the first time, the Edinburgh Gilbert & Sullivan Society (EDGAS) turns the clock back and presents one of the G&S masterpieces in a version similar to that which would have been performed on its premiere. In this case, it's Ruddygore (later renamed Ruddigore), which opened at London's Savoy Theatre in 1887, and was last presented by EDGAS in 2003.
The plot is a good one. Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd has fled the ancestral home and, disguised as Robin Oakapple, has settled in Rederring. Here he has fallen in love with Rose Maybud but, being too shy to develop the relationship himself, he calls upon Richard Dauntless to court Rose for him. Overcome by Rose's beauty, Richard sets about capturing her for himself and nearly succeeds in doing so until Robin finally declares his love for her and wins her back. However, when Robin's true identity is revealed, a number of the Murgatroyd family ghosts are unleashed, and the situation becomes even more complicated.
One by one, the first half introduces the principal characters, and - for regular EDGAS audiences - it is a delight to see stalwarts Ian Lawson (Sir Ruthven/Robin), Fiona Main (Mad Margaret) and Simon G. Boothroyd (Sir Despard) reunited on stage, and all on sparkling form. Indeed, their rendition of "My eyes are fully open" is the highlight of the evening. This is the song which was 'borrowed' by the musical adaption of Thoroughly Modern Millie, and it is good to see it back in its original setting.
It's not unusual in a G&S opera for a musical number to reach its conclusion and garner applause, only for the orchestra to start up another verse, and then another verse, much to the 'consternation' of the performers. This time, however, in "You understand? I think I do", the orchestra are firmly and unexpectedly put in their place, in one of several highly effective comic touches.
Whilst this particular opera may now be 130 years old, it certainly does not look dated, and much of this is to the credit of both a lively 48-strong chorus and the inclusion of references to the likes of Brexit and the current US President, which are cleverly written into the patter song - now something of an EDGAS tradition.
Artistic director Alan Borthwick and musical director David Lyle have once again concocted a highly enjoyable production which really does Ruddygore justice. This is now Lyle's 40th year as MD of the company, whilst Borthwick has reimagined his 2003 production (in which he also starred as Richard Dauntless).
Also worthy of mention is the sound design. The excellent 26-piece orchestra are consistently balanced very well with the vocals - there is never a feeling of over-amplification from either side and indeed one starts to forget that microphones are being used at all. The cast and directors deserve credit here for precision and clarity of diction, which some professional productions could learn from.
Once again, EDGAS lives up to its excellent reputation, and whets the appetite for its presentation of H.M.S Pinafore in March 2018. Edinburgh is indeed fortunate to have a company which presents the works of Gilbert and Sullivan with such fluency year after year.
EDGAS's Ruddygore runs at Edinburgh's King's Theatre until 25 March.
Picture credit: Ross Main