Date 4th May 2022
Society Eastbourne G & S Society
Venue Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne
Type of Production G&S
Director Richard Woodall
Musical Director Russell Ablewhite
Choreographer Lucy Sarsfield


Author: Anne Lawson

The set was really quite simple, created by Andy Newell, and showed a bright blue backdrop with fluffy white clouds. Silhouetted at one side was an attractive low, lengthy pier. A columned archway was used to symbolise Ruddygore Castle, and the picture gallery in Act 2 was excellent with doors opening and each ancestor in a stunning period costume. The stage crew, under company SM Elliot Davies, moved smaller items efficiently, dressed in keeping all wearing flat caps.

This production was an original version of the 10th G & S, perhaps not the most popular comic opera, using its original spelling with a ‘y’, original overture and finale. Action was updated to the beginning of the 20th century using  vaudeville, melodrama and music hall influences. The place is a Cornwall village where professional bridesmaids are waiting eagerly for a wedding to happen. Rose Maybud, perfectly cast Rowan, looks a likely candidate, although Mad Margaret beautifully characterised with the powerful performance of Rebecca Hughes, might have been chosen despite her madness for loving in vain a Baronet of Ruddygore as had Dame Hannah -  a charismatic Aunt portrayed by Wendy Dovey with much grace, who is proprietress of the Bridal Boutique.

She works on matching a difficult to please (according to her little Book of Etiquette) Rose with Robin Oakapple a shy, pleasant farmer. This role perfect too for Paul Eccles, mastering his tongue twisting patter song with both ease and elegant gestures. After a wonderful duet with puppets, kindly supplied by Ray Sparks, beside the splendid Punch & Judy booth, she turns him down for another none other than Richard aka Dick – Robin’s foster brother returned from seafaring ventures after 10 years or more. Not a desirable choice for a well-bred young lady. Mischievous and bad Richard Dauntless gave Eve Chatfield a challenge and she developed a great Cornish brogue; good nautical movement and I think we did forgive the misdeeds by the end!

Tim Gordon played the dark villainous Sir Despard with conviction and a well performed comedic vaudeville double-act with the tamed Mad Margaret. Tall John Kimberley was loyal old retainer Adam, with Nigel Lawton a splendid ghost Sir Roderick. Of course, the tale continues to twist and turn, curses to overcome, and romantic muddles are corrected although a bit of a sad end for Dame Hannah! Supporting roles and the bridesmaid troupe were well-choreographed by Lucy Sarsfield with strong vocalisation - a joy to listen to, as too were the seafaring gentlemen/ghosts of the chorus.

Experienced Richard Woodall directed this thoroughly enjoyable melodrama and returning back to a live orchestra; Russell Ablewhite led the lyrical musical direction.

First-class costumes were supplied by BPD Costumes of Polegate with much attention to good footwear, hair and makeup. Gentlemen I would just comment on the ‘fall’of your trousers. Braces perhaps? Accessories, hats, hair and make-up created the overall finishing touches.

An appreciative matinee audience – and thank you for my enjoyable first ‘Ruddygore’ experience. Particularly encouraging to see new members enjoying keeping G & S alive and well in such a prestigious venue.