by W S Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan
Wednesday 31 October - Saturday 3 November
Hampton Hill Theatre
Director: Wesley Henderson-Roe
Assistant director: Laurie Coombs
Musical director: Lee Dewsnap
Rehearsals: Monday evenings, 8-10 pm
St Stephen's Church Hall, Parkside Road, Hounslow TW3 2BP
A satire on the stereotyped characters and ridiculous supernatural plots of Victorian melodrama, Ruddigore has long been a favourite of Gilbert & Sullivan aficionados. Gilbert himself apparently rated it as one of his three favourite Savoy operas, along with 'Yeomen of the Guard' and 'Utopia Limited'.
Here's a synopsis, with the names of the main characters in bold.
All the young men in the Cornish fishing village of Rederring are nuts about the lovely Rose Maybud, but they're all too terrified to ask her to marry them. This doesn't please Rederring's troupe of professional bridesmaids, who – as no-one's getting married – are worried they will soon be out of a job.
Led by chief bridesmaid Zorah, the bridesmaids urge elderly Dame Hannah to think of marrying, but she explains she was once engaged to a youth who turned out to be the Baronet of Ruddigore, Sir Roderic Murgatroyd. The Baronets are under a curse brought on them by the witch-persecuting antics of the first Baronet, Sir Rupert Murgatroyd. They must commit a crime a day, or die horribly. When Hannah discovered who Roderic really was, she promptly left him, but has never forgotten her lost love.
Rose, being an orphan, has lived all her life with a book of etiquette as her guide, so thinks none of the village men are suitable except the young farmer Robin Oakapple, who (like everyone else) is too shy to talk to her. Robin wishes he could ask Rose to marry him, but he has a terrible secret. He is really the current Baronet, Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, hiding from the curse. The only person who knows the truth is his faithful manservant, Old Adam.
Robin's sailor foster-brother, Richard Dauntless, who has been at sea for ten years, arrives in the village. Richard offers to woo Rose in Robin's place, but is so taken with her he asks her to marry him instead, much to the bridesmaids' delight and Robin's horror. But Richard doesn't measure up to Rose's expectations (or her book of etiquette) and she decides to marry Robin instead.
There are other casualties of the Baronets' curse. The village madwoman, Mad Margaret, was once beloved of Sir Despard Murgatroyd, Robin's younger brother – but when Robin faked his death to flee the curse, Despard was forced to take over as Bad Baronet of Ruddigore, leaving Margaret bereft.
Meanwhile, Richard has a cunning plan to win Rose back from Robin. He goes to Despard and tells him his elder brother is alive and is about to marry Rose Maybud. Despard confronts his brother at the wedding, forcing Robin to admit his real identity and take over as Bad Baronet. Rose offers herself to Despard, but he refuses her and proposes to Margaret, leaving Rose with Richard as her only option. The bridesmaids are working overtime.
Robin, or Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd as he now is, is not having a good time. His manservant Old Adam, or Gideon Crawle as he now calls himself, announces that Rose and Richard are coming to ask the Baronet's blessing on their wedding. Robin attempts to kidnap Rose but is foiled by Richard holding a Union Jack over her head.
Alone in his castle's portrait gallery, Robin calls upon his ancestors to release him from the curse. The ancestors appear as ghosts from their portraits, led by the ghost of Sir Roderic Murgatroyd. Not only do they refuse to release him from the curse, they warn him his crimes are not up to scratch and he must commit a proper crime or die horribly. In despair, Robin tells Old Adam to go to the village and carry off a lady – any lady – and bring her to the castle.
The newly-wed Despard and Margaret, who are now mostly respectable, arrive. Despard points out that all his bad deeds are now under Robin's name as Sir Ruthven, as he should have been the Baronet all along. Robin vows to defy his ancestors, even if it means he dies.
Meanwhile Adam has succeeded, with some difficulty, in carrying off – Dame Hannah! She is furious and threatens Robin with a knife until he calls for help. Sir Roderic reappears from his portrait, recognises Hannah as his lost love and tells Robin to go away. Finally, Robin works it out. Refusing to commit a daily crime is tantamount to suicide, but suicide itself is a crime. So none of the ancestors, including Roderic, should have died at all, and the curse doesn't apply! All the ghosts, including Roderic, come back to life. Roderic and Hannah are reunited, as are Rose and Robin, and Richard ends up with Zorah. The bridesmaids prepare to work overtime again …
There's more information at the G&S Archive: http://www.gsarchive.net/ruddigore/html/rg_home.html