On this page:

Ruddigore Cast





Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd BYRON MILLER (Disguised as Robin Oakapple, a young farmer)
Richard Dauntless CLIVE CARLIN (His Foster-Brother - a Man-'o-'war's-man)
Sir Despard Murgatroyd DEREK NORTON (Of Ruddigore. A wicked baronet)
Old Adam Goodheart VICTOR CLARKE (Robin's faithful servant)
Rose Maybud (A village maiden) LYNDA SMART
Dame Hannah (Rose's Aunt) DIANE NORTON
Zorah (Professional Bridesmaid) DEBBIE LEE
Ruth (Professional Bridesmaid) KATIE PHIPPS
Sir Roderic Murgatroyd (deceased) (The Twenty First Baronet of Ruddigore) RON SMITH


Professional Bridesmaids: Liz Evans, Anja Gooding, Emma Green, Natasha Green, Laura Gregory, Nicky Harris, Jo Hayes, Sarah Taylor, Lucy Taylor

Villagers and Ancestors: Doreen Bevan, Kath Carter, Andrea Clarke, Janet Clarke, Ann de Voil, Elizabeth Fox, Zena Grady, Christine Herrick, Pat Humphreys, Pam Spokes, Betty Whalley Tom Allen, Peter Astill, Mike Bevan, Eric Blower, John Booth, Ralph Foggin, John Gow, Philip Herrick, Don Jones, Robert Kemp, Derek McDonald, Glenn Panter, Fred Rowe



Director - Peter James Robinson
Musical Director - David Toft



Rederring is the only place in the land with a corps of professional bridesmaids. No wedding has taken place for some time so they are bewailing their lack of employment and hoping that Rose Maybud will oblige.

As this is unlikely they ask Dame Hannah if she might consider marriage but she explains that her betrothed had turned out to be a Baronet of Ruddigore. She tells of the curse placed on all who hold that title - they must commit a crime a day or perish in dreadful agony!

Dame Hannah's niece, Rose Maybud, then appears. She is a shy girl, in love with Robin Oakapple, but he too is shy and they cannot tell of their feelings for each other. In reality, Robin is not what he seems…

Richard Dauntless (Robin's foster brother) arrives. He has the assurance with the opposite sex that Robin lacks, so Robin asks him to speak to Rose on his behalf. Sadly, he is a bit too successful and wins Rose for himself, but she changes her mind again and pledges herself to Robin.

We then meet Mad Margaret, who loves Sir Despard Murgatroyd. She believes he is going to abduct Rose, so she warns her and they creep away as the chorus enters, later joined by Sir Despard, who explains what an unpleasant person he has become because of the curse.

Richard overhears Despard bemoaning his fate of having to commit a daily crime and feels obliged to tell him the truth about Robin…

The end of Act One brings all the characters together for the wedding of Rose and Robin but before this can take place the dreadful secret is revealed! Robin is actually Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, who fled and left his younger brother Despard to inherit his title - and the curse. Rose throws herself on Despard's mercy but as he can now live a virtuous life he returns to his first love, Margaret. The resourceful Rose resolves to marry Richard and the corps of bridesmaids celebrate the upturn in business!

Act Two is set in the picture gallery of Ruddigore Castle, now the home of Sir Ruthven (Robin). Unfortunately, the Ruddigore ancestors have grave concerns about the new Baronet's ability to carry out a deadly crime each day. They commission him to abduct a lady to prove his wickedness and the servant, Old Adam, is sent off on this mission.

Meanwhile, Despard and Margaret persuade Ruthven to give up his life of crime. He vows to talk to Sir Roderic (his most recent ancestor) but Adam returns with a real tiger cat - none other than Dame Hannah! He calls for help from Sir Roderic who is reunited with Dame Hannah as he is the betrothed she was telling the bridesmaids about.

So everything is sorted out neatly, except for Ruthven; Richard is about to marry the girl he loves and he still has the Ruddigore curse hanging over him. Or does he ?

Back To Top

From Our President, JOHN FLORANCE

Ruddigore. . . A Personal View

IN the popularity league table, Ruddigore has never been up there with such winners as The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance and The Gondoliers. On the other hand, it has never languished in the relegation zone like Princess Ida and The Grand Duke.

There are historical reasons for its middling position. Because it followed the record breaking Mikado it suffered from the great expectations of press and public alike.

What could surpass the Savoy's Japanese opera? Not Ruddigore apparently! For the first time boos were heard from the gallery at a Savoy premiere. These were mainly directed at the staging of the supernatural scenes but cries of "Give us back The Mikado!" were also heard.

Perhaps those first critics of the piece noticed that Gilbert was rehashing old ideas. For instance, the gallery of ancestral portraits derives from a non Savoy piece he'd written years before called Ages Ago and the Sir Roderic and Dame Hannah relationship brings to mind a similar couple in The Sorcerer. The plot was largely derived from Rookwood by W. Harrison Ainsworth and the parody of naval behaviour and language reminds one of HMS Pinafore.

In addition, the blood and thunder melodrama of which Ruddigore is a parody was virtually extinct as a theatrical fashion. If all that wasn't enough, even the sanguinary of the title drew comment from some quarters, causing the irascible Gilbert to suggest it should be changed to Kensington Gore or Not Half so Good as The Mikado. In the end he simply changed the spelling from Ruddygore to Ruddigore.

Given all this it is hardly surprising that Ruddigore was one of the few operas not revived during the lifetime of its creators. The initial run of The Mikado was 672 performances; Ruddigore ran for 288. "It was", writes Hesketh Pearson, "what the Savoy partners called a failure". But his next sentence makes clear that "failure" was a relative concept. "That is to say, Gilbert made seven thousand pounds out of the original run, Sullivan made more because of the sale of his music and Carte made most of all because having only financed it instead of creating it, he naturally made the most".

None of this, however, really accounts for the relative neglect of Ruddigore today for I am convinced that it is one of Gilbert & Sullivan's finest creations. In part, the reservations Gilbert himself had about the piece are the very reasons why we today can arrive at a more just estimate of its qualities.

The playwright had an admirable sense of his own competence and very rarely expressed an opinion on the art which was Sullivan's sphere, but on this occasion he blamed the composer's music for the opera's poor reception. "I fancy he thought his position demanded something grander and more impressive than the words suggested" he wrote to a friend, adding that the ghost music was like introducing fifty lines of Paradise Lost into a farcical comedy. He was, of course, thinking of Sir Roderic's superb song "When the night wind howls" with its colourful orchestration, unusual harmonies and unexpected rhythms. These days we can appreciate stylistic contrast with rather more pleasure than Gilbert. Indeed the stylistic breadth, abundant subtleties and sly felicities of Sullivan's score are what make Ruddigore the gem it is.

Of course, the team's old trademarks are there, such as the patter trio "My eyes are fully open" (which delightfully makes mock of the convention) and the parodies of grand opera. But the score also abounds in numbers that either represent something new or a real development of tried and tested techniques. For example, it seems to me that the Act One finale is an advance on the much-lauded equivalent in The Mikado. It contains one of the composer's sweetest inventions (the madrigal) and the interrupted gavotte is marvellously done.

Mention of that reminds one how cleverly Sullivan uses dance in the score. The hornpipe, gavotte and others pave the way for even more subtle integration of dance into the fabric of The Gondoliers and Utopia. The finale of the opera ("Oh happy the lily") in 9/8 time is delightfully unexpected and the aforementioned song of Sir Roderic represents daring and inspiration of a kind not heard elsewhere in the canon.

Whilst Gilbert the playwright often marks time (though the picture gallery scene was effective enough for it to be virtually lifted by the creators of Me and My Girl fifty years later) Gilbert the lyricist shows no sign of diminished power. For example, Mad Margaret's Act One scena and ballad are splendid examples of his art, as is the madrigal, which moves even without Sullivan's music.

One could go on but the risk of boredom looms! For those unconvinced that Ruddigore should be up there with the league champions, well all I can say is that I hope our production will persuade you otherwise!

Back To Top


Did You Know? Gilbert had a mastery of the English language and often used expressions in his libretti that were in vogue at the time of writing.

Set out below are a few such examples that are to be found in Ruddigore:

Amaryllis - Girl's name in use in classical and pastoral poetry. ("Welcome Gentry" - chorus)

Valley-de-sham - Victorian English pronunciation of valet de chambre, a personal male servant. ("I once was as meek as a new born lamb" - Sir Ruthven and Old Adam)

Lantern chaps - Long bony jaws ("High Noon" - Sir Roderic)

Penny Readings - Meetings at which reading's from one's own or another's writings would be given. The admission was usually one penny. ("I once was a very abandoned person" Margaret and Despard)

Parlyvous - Obviously a parody, this upset the French newspaper "Le Figaro" which wrote that the song was an insult to the French nation and navy. Gilbert replied that the French would have used terms like "Rosbif' to ridicule Les Anglais! ("I shipp'd d'ye see" - Richard Dauntless)

Gideon Crawle - This is assumed to be Old Adam's real name.