Some really good vocal moments slightly let down by a confused interpretation.
Ruddygore, a Gilbert and Sullivan cult classic, has all of the elements of a great light operetta show: great soprano tones, ghosts, curses and very fast lyrics. LopSoc’s adaptation made a very conscious effort to modernise and give an interesting twist to an otherwise very traditional show and overall managed to do so very well.
The Annex was absolutely magical. The staging and backdrop were beautiful and it hardly seemed like the same space Charlie Brown was in a short time ago. The vine leaves and stone patterned slates as the backdrop did wonders at transporting the audience to the festival in which the show is set. Furthermore, having the band very much a part of the set rather than in a pit added to the festival feel the prod team were going for. The production value overall was extremely effective: the costumer Eris Perring and Delyth Simons did an amazing job at procuring effective and visually stunning outfits for the whole cast.
The music was overall very well produced, so a lot of praise has to go to the musical directors Isaac Treuherz, Hannah Parsons and Liam Chan for pulling off a really good folk adaptation of the music. All of the named cast were vocally really strong; Bridie Strachan, Rhona Graham and Amber Courage were prime examples of supported sopranos that carried their voices to the back of the Annex without the need of microphones. Abby Pardoe also did a great rendition of a gender swapped character (contraltos represent!) both tonally and as a steampunk lesbian. Overall the harmonies were well executed and clean; the unauditioned chorus impressed me with their vocal ability and how their voices merged with the named cast in a natural way.
The acting, overall, was of a good standard within the leads. A good example is Philip Needle, who played the shy and naïve Baronet of Ruddygore convincingly as well as generating a good amount of laughs from the audience. The chorus, however, lacked facial expressions overall and seemed to not really display a lot of emotion when listening to the happenings of the scenes in which they were in. Perhaps an acting workshop for background acting would be really helpful, as the potential is definitely there. Although Strachan was hilarious in her portrayal of Rose Maybud, I didn’t necessarily believe the chemistry between her and Needle, although this may have been a directorial choice. Lucy Rose’s blocking was simple but effective and allowed the characters to interact in a natural way for the time in which it was set and was careful to take into consideration the Annex sight lines.
The choreography was relatively well executed considering LOpSoc is not a dance intensive society. The use of the folk dancing was effective with the style of music chosen by the Musical Directors but I feel that perhaps it was slightly too complex since some of the chorus was not able to keep up with other members and had to look at other cast members to remember the steps. Although this was not a game-changer or major issue, it still took away from the finesse of the show overall.
The storyline itself is an independent component from this review, as it is largely out of the prod team’s control, but I did feel that a particular setting should have been made more clear as the time period seemed non-descript. The fact the time in which it was set was not specific would have worked had there not been added jokes that shifted the time period to the 21st century. An example of this is when an EU flag is placed on top of Rose Maybud to protect her at which Ruddygore exclaims “Foiled! And by EU legislation!”. The addition was witty but somehow was a large juxtaposition to the rest of the piece.
Overall the show was an enjoyable night out with some fantastic vocal moments, but was sadly let down by a lack of background acting and a confusing directorial approach.
Ruddygore was at the Annex Theatre from the 14th to the 17th of February 2018.