Left – Christine Johnston. Cover – Kanen Breen and chorus. Photos – Stephen Henry
‘You’re a tight craft,’ says Richard Dauntless – played to comic perfection by Kanen Breen – to Rosebud the heroine, Natalie Peluso. Equally, this remark applies to Lindy Hume’s inspired production and saucy direction of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore. A tongue-in-cheek gothic fantasy and a laughter spinning, giggle-fest and chuckle coaxer if ever there was one.
Every innuendo and double entendre is plumbed to the depths. Ruddigore is the real deal. A treasure. A hootarama. Just what the Doctor ordered for all and sundry, the tired and the cynical. From the first scene, the audience is in the dedicated cast’s thrall. Zany, funny, colourful, skilled and with a great look and ingenious sets by Richard Roberts, this classy production is a must-see. There’s a brilliant and detailed tableaux in the haunted castle scene but to say anymore would spoil the surprise.
Nothing is sacred in this lampooning romp. The British, more to the point the Victorian British, with their repressed sexuality and bothersome class divisions get a right royal ribbing. Even the spectacle of an English cricket team, Opera Queensland’s chorus, who cross the stage doing a limp, hanky-waving impression of Morris dancers brings the house down. Rewardingly, the cast thoroughly enjoy themselves.
It’s a winning look from the opening scene with its flock of bored bridesmaids in cream, collared frothy dresses who bemoan the dearth of weddings. Their hopes for a ceremony are pinned on Rosebud, a beautiful and mannered charmer who can set her sights on any man and yet won’t. But Rosebud, wonderfully sung and portrayed by Natalie Peluso who stylishly fleshes out a rather two-dimensional role with expressive singing and a rich lexicon of facial expressions and body language, will not make a move. Rosebud can’t make a decision without consulting her precious book of etiquette. She’s in love with Robin Oakapple played by Bryan Proberts. And the latter is stunning and in his comic element as the mincing, yellow-livered Oakapple, who’s really a Baronet in disguise to sidestep a witch’s evil curse. He’s crazy about Rosebud but can’t work up the courage to declare his hand.
Kanen Breen sings distinctively and is hilarious, a show stealer as the womanising sailor who literally sweeps the bridesmaids off their feet and fans their buttoned up sexuality into flames. Breen’s exhilarating dance of extravagant leaps and perfectly scissored legs mid-air lingers in the mind. Christina Johnston is tailor-made for her role as the eye-popping, Mad Marge in Dickensian, Lady Haversham wedding apparel. She whips up the spirit of the ridiculous to a tee. Johnston and Jason Barry-Smith, convincing as Sir Despard Murgatroyd, are a great team. Incidental characters Dame Hannah, Roxane Hislop and Sir Roderic Murgatroyd, Andrew Collis sang rewardingly.
The orchestra, conducted by Roland Peel, gave a respectable account of the Overture but became super-responsive once the action began. At which point the ensemble vividly illuminated and underpinned the melodrama and humour. The Gilbert and Sullivan’s trademark of wordy, tongue-lashed rants articulated at lightning speed were not always clear diction wise but this production is a delight. Very entertaining.
Opera Queensland presents
Ruddigore, or the Witch’s Curse
Gilbert and Sullivan
Director Lindy Hume
Venue: Playhouse Theatre, QPAC
Dates: 14 – 29 July 2017
Tickets: $58.50 – $130 | transaction fee applies
Bookings: operaq.com.au | 136 246
with The Queensland Symphony Orchestra
Gillian is a freelance arts writer and reviewer and the author of Elvis and Me: How a world-weary musician and a broken ex-racehorse rescued each other, Finch Publishing.