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BWW Reviews: RUDDIGORE OR THE WITCH'S CURSE, King's Head Theatre, February 19 2015

Though short of a hologram or two, Ruddigore (at the King's Head Theatre until 14 March) is otherwise familiar to anyone who grew up watching Scooby Doo cartoons on a Friday afternoon and Hammer movies on a Friday night. There's a wild outcast maiden halfway between nymph and nymphomaniac; an evil, yet strangely seductive, Lord of the Manor; and enough ghostly presences to sustain a plot that is just about worthy of the name. But what fun! What Fun!

There are plenty of old Charles Court Opera Company faces for their growing band of loyal fans to recognise and recall from productions (and pantos) past. Amy J Payne is flecked with grey hair to play Dame Hannah, but delivers the musical highlight of the evening with a plaintive but defiant "There Grew A Little Flower". Matthew Kellett and Philip Lee are also back and squabbling over Rebecca Moon's Rose Maybud, the undisputed belle of the village, if somewhat hamstrung by her devotion to an etiquette primer as an all-encompassing guide to life. Simon Masterton-Smith's Old Adam is another fine turn to add to his collection.

After a slightly slow start, full of great songs (led at the piano by another old CCO favourite David Eaton), the pace - and the spectacle - really picks up in Act Two, when John Savournin channels Christopher Lee (no mean opera singer himself) as Sir Despard, the cursed bad baronet. Celebrating ten years of his CCO company, Savournin lets rip with a performance as ripe as one could ever hope to see, swishing a cape the way a cape was meant to be swished! He's so watchably over the top that it takes quite something to tempt one to look elsewhere, but Cassandra McCowan certainly catches the eye with a Mad Margaret who is as bubblingly unhinged as she is sexy. McCowan was just about the best thing about The Mikado's recent run at the Charing Cross Theatre and this performance backs up that promise - her rare combination of acting talent, comic timing and beautiful singing is the stuff of stardom.

Some will always find Gilbert and Sullivan a bit too much - but that's their luck out! If you embrace their topsy-turvy Victorian world and can listen at the speed the lyrics demand (yes, there's the "It Really Doesn't Matter" patter song as a highlight, but Sir William packed plenty into every single bar of Sir Arthur's wonderful music) then you're in for a treat. So get along to The Baronet's Head - sorry, The King's Head - for an er... ruddy good Ruddigore.

Photo - Bill Knight.

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