WS Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan were, without doubt, masters of their craft but – as the programme notes for Opera Della Luna’s The Ghosts of Ruddigore mention – not everything they created was a hit. On its opening night the original production of Ruddigore received a hail of hisses and boos and, unfortunately, this production comes very close to receiving the same treatment.
The piece is advertised as “Gilbert and Sullivan meets Rocky Horror” and that seems to be the first problem. It appears to be roughly akin to promoting it as chalk meets cheese. Lacking the inventiveness and wit for which G&S are recognised and with only a few cast members in drag to provide any link to Rocky, the audience seems somewhat confused from the outset.
The small orchestra, it has to be said, does an excellent job and is the production’s one saving grace, although it was rather bizarre to hear the opening music start whilst watching the musicians sit perfectly still. Once the taped music finishes, and the orchestra starts to play, it becomes obvious that the cast, without microphones, are unable to project their voices sufficiently to be heard or understood and this only helps to add to the confusion as to what is actually happening on stage.
The plot revolves around the exploits of Amanda Goodheart, Louise Crane, who sets off in search of Rederring in Cornwall, the setting for Ruddigore. Reluctantly accompanying her is Kevin Murgatroyd Simon Butteriss who believes that they are on a wild goose chase and who, after their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, is also convinced that they will freeze to death before they find help.
The plot then thickens with ghostly bridesmaids, a village maiden who lives her life as dictated by her book of etiquette, a sailor covered from head to toe in tattoos and enough cases of mistaken identity to fill even the most demanding farce.
Visually, the show is pleasant enough. The set is minimal but functional and, at times, the set changes are quite cleverly incorporated into the action. The costumes are, on the whole, perfectly good but that is insufficient to rescue the piece from the frustratingly inaudible confusion that takes place.
Standing in the foyer in the interval, I overheard some comments which echoed my own thoughts. “Please tell me there’s no second act” said one, and “At least we didn’t pay too much for the tickets” said another, as they left.