Review: Ruddigore, Wilton’s Music Hall

A revival of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore doesn’t quite do enough to justify dusting off this rarity at Wilton’s Music Hall

“This particularly rapid, unintelligible patter
Isn’t generally heard, and if it is it doesn’t matter”

The rarefied sound of Gilbert & Sullivan feels ideally suited to the atmospheric setting of Wilton’s Music Hall but rather than one of Sasha Regan’s all-male productions reappearing, it is Oracle Productions taking the lead to present us with one of G&S’ lesser-known works – Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse. Directed here by Peter Benedict, it feels rather clear why it is indeed lesser performed.

Ruddigore blends their customary social satire with a touch of the supernatural as a family curse afflicting a baronet means he must commit a crime every day or perish in agony. To have any chance of escaping it, he’s got to deal with handsome sailors, frustrated bridesmaids, a set of haunted family portraits and more besides, all in the hope that everything will come good at the end for a rousing finale.

A certain daftness is par for the course for G&S but Ruddigore never quite won me over. Part of the problem lies in Benedict’s production choices, opting for a contemporary framing device which remains frustratingly unresolved as to how it really related to the show. And though there’s talent in the company, the skill-set does not always seem to include the necessary crispness of diction to work with the lyrical complexity that is fundamental in shows like this. It is painfully apparent at times.

There’s always pleasure in seeing Rosie Ashe onstage, the richness of her stage presence a natural fit for the innate campness of Dame Hannah. But for all MD Tom Noyes’ hard work, there’s no mistaking the thinness of sound that comes from such a small band, the mistake coming in trying emulate the orchestral sound rather than making new arrangements work for the personnel to hand. It’s hard to know what to make of it in the end, a curiosity that somewhat deserves its relative obscurity.

Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Mark Senior
Ruddigore is booking at Wilton’s Music Hall until 25th March

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