1976 Ruddigore

Chronicle Review

A splendid piece of Victorian melodrama


DEREK COLLINS’ production of Ruddigore at Witham this Week (catch it if you can at the Public Hall (tonight, Friday, and tomorrow) is as good as his recent G and S essay at Braintree was disappointing. Possibly two major productions in so short a space of time are inadvisable for one man.

Gilbert and Sullivan's burlesque on the Victorian melodrama and all its attendant ruddy gore gave the Witham cast some splendid opportunities to grab. And grab they did. With both hands.

Derek Collins was most entertaining as Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, timing all the accompanying G and S stage business to perfection. Malcolm Watson was an airy and breezy Man-o'-War's man and Nicholas Clough almost stole the show (in the showiest role) as Sir Despard, the evil baronet. It was a luscious full-blooded - performance which even the critic can sit back and enjoy, a fairly rare occurrence, and one to be savoured.

Tim Sheppard was an amusing and likeable old retainer even if his wig did leave a lot to be desired (and to be seen, round the back of his neck) and, joy of joys, Witham has found an attractive young lady to play the attractive young Rose Maybud and she can also sing. Hilary Brunning gave a delightful performance. Janet Collins well deserved her round of applause as Mad Margaret which she played with desperate sincerity.

The chorus sang lustily throughout, particularly for the Madrigal, which was splendid. Sorry to have to mention it (remember the Letters Page last week?) but the orchestra, under Ken Ferris took some considerable time to settle. I wish that musicians were not at such a premium and that more rehearsal time was possible because the "rough" sound took the fine edge off Monday night's very smooth first night.

Scenic effects were very stylish. I particularly like the Victorian footlights. Well done Witham. I enjoyed myself very much.


Gazette Review

Last act antics only fault in good Ruddigore

IN the last act, when Dame Hannah felled Sir Ruthven with a karate chop, and then forced a submission by a leg lock, it was like a bad Gilbert and Sullivan dream.
But this was the only anachronism in Derek Collins fine period production of Ruddigore at Witham's public hall this week.

It is packed with good performances. Newcomer Hilary Brunning makes a lovely Rose Maybud and sings delightfully. Nicholas Clough is an ideal Sir Despard in both his aspects, and Janet Collins squeezes both pathos and fun from Mad Margaret. The producer plays Robin Oakapple with a nice sense of accurate timing; the ghostly baronets are most effective and the professional bridesmaids sweet and charming.

The orchestra, under the baton of Ken Ferris deals smoothly with some of the music and the show is well worth a visit even if they are tempted to include a tag match by the end of the week.