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Review - Ruddigore or the Witch’s Curse: fun, frolic, and sheer enjoyment

Above: Richard Dauntless (Kanen Breen and chorus). Below right: Mad Margaret (Christine Johnston) and Rose Maybud (Natalie Christie Peluso).

Photos by: Stephen Henry. More photos follow the review.

Ruddigore or the Witch’s Curse

By Gilbert and Sullivan

Directed by Lindy Hume

Conducted by Roland Peelman

Opera Queensland

Playhouse Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank


Season: July 14-29. Duration: Two hours 50 minutes including interval. Bookings: or QTIX 136 246.

Ruddigore? Ruddimarvellous!

This current Opera Queensland offering is two-and-a-half fast-fleeting hours of sheer fun, frolic, and enjoyment.

Ruddigore is not one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most performed works, in fact this was the first time I had seen it, but is hard to understand why. It has a wonderful tangled plot, great and sometimes bizarre comedy characters, a bouncy score from Arthur Sullivan, plus oddly modern writing in which every joke hit home.

Maybe the answer lies in the director Lindy Hume. She picked a highly talented cast, a mix of actors and singers for a start, and she obviously sees the anarchic and Pythonesque humour in the Victorian comedy and played it to the full.

In fact Monty Python was quite evident in the sets with enlarged Victorian style graphics turned into set pieces on stage. It was a top design job from Richard Roberts and was well lit by Andrew Meadows. Then we had dark thunder and lightning in true melodramatic mood, only to see it lightened by some classic silliness. It was brilliant theatre.

The story tells the tale of the shy and law-abiding, gentleman farmer Robin Oakapple who is working up the courage to ask the beautiful Rose Maybud to marry him.

He is encouraged by the posse of out-of-work professional bridesmaids, all beautifully costumed by the way (the dainty boots themselves must have cost a small fortune) and always perfect in tone and timing.

But Robin has a dark secret; he is the heir to a terrible curse cast on the future Murgatroyd Baronets of Ruddigore by a witch who was burned at the stake. The curse dictates they must commit a crime every day – or face a torturous death. Robin has been living in disguise to escape his fate while his younger brother, Despard, had to assume the role of Baronet.

When the truth is discovered, Robin is bound to obey the family curse. Under these difficult circumstances, can he win back Rose and lead the virtuous life he craves?

Robin is played by Bryan Probets in fine style, he is a star indeed and he sings very well too - especially when he does an amazing duet (You understand? I think I do) with Despard, a nicely played cad from Jason Barry Smith and in the Matter trio. Rose’s Etiquette song was another great number.

Robin’s hopes of marrying the sweet Rose come down a peg or two when his half brother, Richard the sweet talking, womanising sailor, offers to help and he does – himself. Richard is played by Kanan Breen and he brought the house down as he danced the hornpipe with the bevy of beautiful bridesmaids. It was a great scene to watch and nicely choreographed by Rosetta Cook.

He got special applause too as he entered, swinging on a rope, in an obvious a piece of homage to the late Pirate King Jon English.

I thoroughly enjoyed the performance of Natalie Christie Peluso as Rose Maybud. She has a lovely voice and is a fine actor too. Another who managed to steal every scene she was in was Christine Johnston as Mad Margaret, thwarted swain of the previously cursed Despard.

Shaun Brown had a lot of fun too as the ancient retainer Adam Goodheart and adding to the overall excellence was Roxanne Hislop as Dame Hannah and Katie Stenzel as pushy bridesmaid Zorah.

One of the funniest moments of the night was when the family portrait gallery comes alive at the Ghosts’ High Noon. The tartan dressed, wild red-haired Sir Roderick Murgatroyd, was a classic piece of work from Andrew Collis.

The whole thing, backed by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, was a joy from start to finish. Go and see it, G&S purist or not.

Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd/Robin Oakapple (Bryan Probets) and Sir Roderic Murgatroyd (Andrew Collis)

Right; Jason Barry Smith as Despard and Christine Johnston as Mad Margaret.

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