I had an unexpected pleasure on Saturday, of going to the Grand Opera House in the afternoon to see Gilbert and Sullivans’ Ruddigore. I know! Opera on a Saturday afternoon! What kind of crazy person does that! Well, me apparently. And maybe a hundred other people – I wasn’t there on my own.
I’d seen a few posters around town for this, and after enjoying a Gilbert and Sullivan opera last year I thought I should look into it. But I am disorganised clown, and I didn’t. Then a friend raved about it in work on Friday after seeing it the previous evening. I assumed I had missed my chance, but he pointed out that there was a Saturday afternoon matinee. So with his glowing recommendation, off I went.
The seats in Opera House remain as uncomfortable as I remember. But I really enjoyed my afternoon nonetheless. The spoiler-light summary of the story would be that Rose and Robin find their romance complicated greatly by the fact that he is the rightful Baron of Ruddigore, a title which comes with a curse that he must commit a crime every day or die horribly, by the fact that his friend Richard must always follow his heart wherever it may lead him, and by the fact that Rose must at all times behave properly according to her book of etiquette.
The play opens in the style of a silent film to provide some background, which is very nicely done. The curtain then opens to Rose being awoken by the local girls, all dressed as bridesmaids. As she is the prettiest girl in town, no-one will propose to them until she marries, and so they are all getting increasingly exasperated by her choosiness, and very keen for her to marry as soon as possible. It’s a lovely opening, well sung, with a large cast of bridesmaids, nicely choreographed, and with all the wit we expect from Gilbert and Sullivan.
Ruddigore is not apparently among the most loved of Gilbert and Sullivan’s works, and I freely admit I had never heard of it and recognised none of the songs. But it was exactly what I had expected and hoped for – the tunes are catchy, the lyrics are witty, and there were plenty of laughs. The staging was very good, with the ghostly Ruddigores emerging from their portraits very well, and generally high production values (as I guess they say in these situations). The little orchestra were very good once the clarinet player had sorted out his squeaky reed in the first couple of numbers, and never overpowered the singers.
One song had a surprising update to include crimes such as phone hacking, expenses fiddling, and Greek debts which was marvellous and completely unexpected. But highlight for me had to be the playing of the baron as the classic pantomime villain, with black moustache, top hat, and black cape which was swished and swirled around at every opportunity.
A great afternoon, and not bad value at £20 for a long and lavish show. I loved it, and will definitely seek out more Gilbert and Sullivan.