Gilbert and Sullivan romp at the Tabard impresses
If you do only one new thing before 12 June, go and see Ruddigore at the Tabard. This is Gilbert and Sullivan for the 21st century.
Just nine extraordinarily talented young graduates of the Royal Academy of Music sing, dance and play instruments for two hilarious hours. You don’t have to like Gilbert & Sullivan to enjoy this funny, energetic take on a traditional joy.
With no orchestra, the cast accompany themselves, with a cello, recorder, flute, guitar, violin, a rattle and even a harp thrown into the mix for rollicking, rock and rolling musical mix. Additional musical accompaniment is by Musical Director Andre Refig, tucked away in a tiny balcony above the stage.
The plot is daft even by Gilbert & Sullivan standards. Full of Victorian Gothic, with lovelorn bachelors, optimistic maidens, out of work bridesmaids, mixed up identities, a sailor with an eye for a pretty girl, snobbery, living portraits and burqa-clad ghosts.
It opens with the troupe of contract bridesmaids bemoaning their lot - there hasn’t been a wedding for six months and their funding is running out. With such a small cast, the men have to take their turn as bridesmaids with exaggerated lipstick, rouge and flowers in their hair. At this point it would have been easy for it to descend into high camp , but it doesn’t. It’s funny, it’s farcical but it’s far too grown-up and tightly directed to be downright silly.
The main story is of the Murgatroyd boys who have inherited an ancient curse – they have to commit a crime every day, which makes it difficult to find girlfriends. Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd (Ben Mann) hides out in a Cornish village under an assumed name, but his fate catches up with him. His true identity is revealed and he has to take on the curse. This reduces his opportunities with his girlfriend, the lovely Rose Maybud (Lydia Jenkins) who falls for a sailor (Mathew Crowe); bringing on all sorts of complex plot twists.
Of course it comes alright in the end, although they have to bring somebody back from the dead to make it work, but who cares? It Really Doesn’t Matter, which is also the title of one of the songs performed with toe-tapping, foot stomping gusto, once during the show and reprised at the end, leaving the delighted audience howling for more.
To achieve all this in such a tiny space is staging genius. The credit for this goes to Director Alex Young and Choreographer Kris Manuel, who also plays Sir Despard Murgatroyd.
No opportunity to be rude is overlooked, as virgins stare into bulging crotches, men are smothered in ample bosoms and Mad Meg (Sarah Covey) sucks Despard Murgatroyd’s finger in a way that would make Queen Victoria blush. Later on Dame Hannah (Emily Davies) and Sir Roderic Murgatroyd (Michael Storr) sing a duet about a sweet little flower and a growing oak tree while she straddles his leg.......
And there’s a nod to modernity with a joke about giving the portraits to the Tate Modern, but they don't dwell on it
All the cast are brilliant, the two I haven’t mentioned are Robert Hannouch (Old Adam), and Cerian Holland (Zorrah and harpist). Make a note of their names because talent like this is bound to go far so you can expect to see them pop up again.
We’re very lucky to have such a fine production in Chiswick – don’t miss it.
May 30, 2011