tue 04/08/2020

Ruddigore, Opera North | reviews, news & interviews

Ruddigore, Opera North

Ruddigore, Opera North

A Gilbert and Sullivan rarity is gloriously revived

This Opera North production of Ruddigore is really delightful. Projecting witty silent-film footage over the overture to fill in the back story, director Jo Davies has updated the action to the 1920s. Richard Stilgoe’s lyrics bring the action even further forward, referring to duck houses and Jacqui Smith.

It’s clear from the start that this will be a delicious evening. The complicated ensemble scenes in Act One are full of imaginative detail - right down to the movements of feet and hands, tiny gestures which transform a production from the technically impressive to something magical. There is a lovely moment in the bridesmaids' recreation of a naval battle, the British fleet are defeated by Gallic halitosis. Or when Sir Despard passes on the family title to his sweet-natured brother Ruthven by carefully dressing him in a black cape, top hat and cane. The finale of the first act is stunning - musically clever as well as wonderfully funny. At times I was giggling so much I could barely see what was happening. The moment in Act Two where the ancestral portraits of the impressively solid Ruddigore Castle descend from their canvases to taunt Sir Ruthven is theatrical magic.

Casting is uniformly successful. Richard Burkard’s Sir Despard almost steals the evening, bursting through the canvas of a Punch and Judy theatre, hollow laugh ringing out as he twirls his moustache. Grant Doyle conveys an endearing, innocent charm as Sir Ruthven, especially in his early scenes with Amy Freston’s Rose Maybud as the two of them struggle to express their feelings for each other. Hats off too to Stephen Page’s Sir Roderic. There is superb lighting by Anna Watson, particularly during some superbly realistic coastal scenes. John Wilson conducts with pace and affection. As a lifetime G&S sceptic, this production may have converted me. It’s that good.

Ruddigore continues at the Grand Theatre in Leeds until 12 February. It then tours to Salford, Newscastle and Nottingham. Details here.

Listen to The Seckerson Tapes Ruddigore podcast on theartsdesk.

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