Potted Pirates and Ruddigore Reduced

Date 4th October 2019
Society Chesterfield Gilbert & Sullivan Society
Venue The Rose Theatre, Chesterfield
Type of Production G&S
Director John Goodrun (Potted Pirates) Nic Wilson (Ruddigore Reduced)
Musical Director Andrew Marples


Author: Joyce Handbury

Chesterfield G&S Society took the decision to perform two shows in one - Potted Pirates and Ruddigore Reduced. The stories have been adapted by joint directors Nic Wilson and John Goodrum with Musical Director Andrew Marples using Martin Paterson’s reduced orchestrations. They are performing for two nights each in two different venues. This of course comes with major problems concerning scenery etc. and so to combat this dilemma the whole production was delivered against a background of black curtaining. For me, this in no way detracted from the show as what went on in front of it certainly made up for the lack of scenery. As both were ‘potted’ and ‘reduced’ we were treated to the more memorable musical numbers from each of them and in fact the adaptations were so well conceived that none of the plots seemed to be affected!! 

The story of ‘Potted Pirates’ concerns Frederick, who having completed his 21 year apprenticeship is released from his tenure. He meets Mabel, the daughter of Major-General Stanley and they instantly fall in love. However Frederick learns that because he was born on 29th. of February he, technically, must serve for another 63 years. Bound by his own sense of duty, his only comfort is that Mabel agrees to wait for him! Robert Spencer was flamboyant, passionate and totally convincing as Jack Sparrow (oops sorry) The Pirate King. His acting and sublime singing abilities were very much in evidence as were those of Andrew Moore who was just superb as Frederick. The role of Ruth, who is part pirate girl, part devoted nurse and ‘in love’ with Frederick, was played by Judith Hill. She handled this difficult balance with great aplomb and her fabulous and powerful singing voice was just tip-top. The vocal talents of Rachael-Louisa Bray were outstanding and she hit those high notes so effortlessly, she was truly delightful as Mabel. First rate support came from her sisters Edith (Julie Currey), Kate (Honor Aldred) and Isobel (Laura Tassoni). Nic Wilson was in his element as Major-General Stanley making the delivery of the tongue- twisting ‘I am the very model of a Modern Major-General’ look so deceptively easy. Stephen Godward excelled as the Sergeant of Police and along with his fellow policemen hilariously entertained us. The chorus of Pirates, especially John Goodrum as Sam and Raymond Hill as Samuel, and the chorus of Girls all played their parts splendidly. 

‘Ruddigore Reduced’ tells the story of the Murgatroyd family who have for centuries been under a witch’s curse whereby the eldest son has to commit a crime every day or die in agony. To avoid this Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, the rightful heir, has run away and lives as Robin Oakapple in a cornish village Rederring leaving his brother Despard with the curse. But on the very day he is to marry Rose Maybud, it all falls apart! A bevy of beautifully dressed bridesmaids along with Chief Bridesmaid Zorah (Rachael-Louisa Bray) opened the second half with glorious, harmonious singing. Nic Wilson excelled as Robin Oakapple / Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd managing to capture the initial shyness of the character before dramatically becoming Sir Ruthven.  He is the master of ‘patter’ songs, his enunciation is impeccable. Laura Tassoni, in her first major role with the society, was absolutely delightful as Rose Maybud. Her acting skills together with a lovely, sweet voice were just perfect for the part. Andrew Moore was full of energy as Richard Dauntless and his singing of ‘Poor parley voo’ was sung with such feeling - super. Judith Hill was terrific as Dame Hannah and her wonderful singing of ‘There Grew a little flower’ was charming. A most sensitive, frenetic and expressive performance was delivered by Julie Currey as Mad Margaret. It was a most believable and funny portrayal as she went from being wildly ‘mad’ to being brought to ‘sanity’ by the word ‘Basingstoke’. It was obvious that she really relished playing this part which she carried out perfectly. John Goodrum literally owned the stage as Sir Roderick Murgatroyd. He has such a commanding stage presence matched by flawless acting skills and his singing of ’When the night wind howls‘ was excellent. Stephen Godward as Sir Despard Murgatroyd was magnificent.   He too has great stage presence and his melodramatic and theatrical portrayal was outstanding. Splendid support came from the chorus of Bridesmaids, gentry and Ghosts. The singing, by the principals and chorus members, was awesome and I loved the various sections that were sung unaccompanied. Costumes were lovely and very much in keeping with the era represented and the crowning glory was the wonderful orchestra under the direction of Andrew Marples. It is Andrew’s nineteenth and final production for the Society as he will retire at the end of next April after 20 years of service. He will be so missed by the group as he was not only MD for their productions but also, over the years, organised and directed their many concerts. Congratulations to him, to the Production Directors and to everyone involved in bringing to fruition this creative, innovative and wonderful production.