Sunday, 11 August 2013

Dauntless Theatre: Ruddigore

With a name like Dauntless Theatre, it's obvious they have to bring Ruddigore to the Festival (since Yeomen and Iolanthe have but passing references to the word). There are many ways to play Ruddigore... today we saw one of them.

I've mentioned before about action during the overture. This production had the curtain open pretty much straight away, and began to establish the setting (which is a carnival, of sorts); to be honest, I don't think we would have lost much if the curtain had stayed closed until the first number, but it provided something else to look at than the dozen in the orchestra, if you like that sort of thing. (For those keeping score at home, this used the original overture, rather than the Toye variant.)

Dame Hannah (Helena Culliney) was instead a (rather young, actually) nun; presumably she cloistered herself as part of separating herself from Sir Roderic (Rory Oliver), though nothing was explicitly stated about this. (Would she renounce her vows at the end, as part of reuniting with her old love?) Apart from her title (she was referred to as "Sister Hannah", no Dame), no words were changed to make this work, though I was wondering if perhaps her reference to the "morals of a Methodist" ought to have been changed - an opportunity for something, there. Sir Roderic himself was straight-forward; impressively, he (among half a dozen) remained on stage and stationary through the whole second act. (I've no idea what the structure was they were behind, something constructed out of rectangles it seems; I guess maybe it was their picture frames - not hung, just piled up in the attic.) Roddy, like all the ghosts, seemed almost completely incapable of emotion; especially in his dialogue, he had that flat, cold, almost monotonic style that can be either incredibly creepy or incredibly scary if it's worked right; and in this case it was. The same flat-scary style applied also to the Agonies, which consisted of the ghosts making extremely slight movements, and the lighting going crazy. Whatever it was, it certainly caused enough pain to have Sir Rivven (Stuart Sellens) writhing on the floor. (I spell his name that way because, when he himself declared it at the beginning of the second act, he said "without the elision, Sir Rivven Murgatroyd". So clearly that's how it's spelled.) Somehow he reminded me of Joe Rudd from "On Our Selection", though without the stutter. He and Old Adam (Andrew Watson) decided between them on a fresh name for the faithful servant, but calling him Gideon Crawle didn't actually happen on stage, it was all back to Old Adam. Habit, I guess. He was a definitely OLD old Adam, possibly off a sailing ship (he entered whistling "We sail the ocean blue" in the first act), and appreciating his eight-hours-at-the-seaside telling of the truth. He could have been the devoted servant of any of several generations of Murgatroyds, and was almost certainly known to Sir Despard (Sebastion Davidson), for want of a better link to another character. Despard pulled off the whole "I am so eeeevul" thing, and also the switch to "Oh, I'm virtuous now, and I provided shoes for my beloved" (which she noisily appreciated). But even freshly virtuous, he still expressed a most reasonable frustration at the antics of the bridesmaids, snatching off one of them the bouquet that she'd just thrust into his face, and tossing it carelessly out of the way... straight into the hands of Mad Margaret (Kayleigh Oliver, who also directed, and chairs the company's committee). She wasn't as over-the-top mad as I've at times seen her portrayed, but on the flip side, she was the tented fortune teller, which leaves questions of just what sort of fortunes she told. "You will meet a bad baronet. He will give you an Italian glance, and you will die POP!" Certainly Rose Maybud (Anna Scott) was reasonably scared of her, which may explain why she wasn't asked along when the party went to beg marriage permission. Rose is too nice a person to cut anyone out, but really, do you want someone on your diplomatic mission who might have an outburst of Megism? It's a good thing she's so nice, though, or she'd have some words with her formerly-engaged, Dick Dauntless (Seann Wilkinson), who managed to pick himself up a fresh girl (Zorah, Emma Rogers) in the brief moment while Rose is telling Sir R that she loved him madly, passionately, hopelessly, despairingly.

This show had a number of neatnesses to it, a number of points about which I thought excellent, or at least fairly decent. (For instance, fairly constant background action - life doesn't stop just because there's stuff happening. Verisimilitude at the price of the Law of Conservation of Detail. Also the squeezebox accompaniment of the hornpipe - showing off the talent of a member of the company, I think; singularly appropriate to the context.) It was marred, though, by some lack of polish and time spent drilling the words and music; there are enough neat ideas to give this show a sense of promise, but I would hesitate to introduce someone to G&S through this. It's very close to being excellent, though. Very close indeed.


Kayleigh said...

Thank you for your review Chris, I have passed your thoughts on to the cast :)
I do beg your indulgence on the "polish" front though - hopefully more excuseable when you consider that we only rehearsed for a week! (Albeit one happy, happy week!)

Chris Angelico said...

Hi Kayleigh! I'm aware you would have had a very short rehearsal period - everyone did - and I'm fully aware that the professional companies are able to do way WAY more on that front than most of the others. It still feels a bit of a loss, though, when the words are being paraphrased because they're not thoroughly learned; an understandable loss, but still a loss.