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.


BWT Review

An easy show to enjoy

Witham Operatic Society having carefully polished that delightful old piece of Victoriana, Ruddigore, have it on view this week at the Public Hall. The bad baronets and the bouncing bridesmaids are full cry, skilfully accompanied by Ken Ferris’s tuneful orchestra. The hooded footlights are a neat reminder that we are looking back into last century and it’s all nicely done in period apart for a bit of up-to-date “business” introduced to gain a cheap laugh.

As that easily inflammable beauty Rose Maybud, ever anxious to strike a good match, Hilary Brunning, in her first appearance on this stage, scores a palpable hit. She has the looks, the acting ability, and above all, a flexible and attractive singing voice.

Nicholas Clough (Sir Despard) and Derek Collins (Sir Ruthven) handle their Jekyll and Hyde assignments with consummate skill and provide some powerful melodramatic acting and singing. There is an agreeably light-hearted performance from Malcolm Watson as Richard Dauntless and Tony Wood, as Sir Roderic, gives full value to his sonorous “When the night wind howls".


Janet Collins makes a pretty little wood nymph of Mad Margaret before she became respectable and Rita Page sings convincingly as Dame Hannah. Tim Sheppard as a crumbling retainer and Patsy Doy with Pat Harris as highly professional bridesmaids, also fit into the pleasing picture Derek. Collins has drawn so effectively.

For me the high spot of the evening was well known “blameless dances” duet between Nicholas Clough and Janet Collins - at this point their work touched perfection. The traditional choreography, too, was very well arranged and expertly performed while the chorus singing, especially in the madrigal was of a high standard. Perhaps W. S. Gilbert’s involved dialogue is sometimes a little difficult to follow by the person in the street but this is a very easy show to sit back and enjoy.

Gilbert Sutcliffe