“One must always be careful of books and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”

Cassandra Clare

I went to see Ruddigore, one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s more minor operettas (operettae, possibly? Operetti?) staged by the University Gilbert and Sullivan Society because – Wait, why did I go and see it again?

I was assured it had witchcraft in it. And, being Gilbert and Sullivan, it might have been fun.

Yes, it might have been fun, barely, if it had been performed by people who could actually sing. Or even act. It turns out that university students, at least the ones who are members of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, can only do one of the two. Thus the lead soprano, while having a rather nice voice, had all the acting range of a teaspoon (to adapt J.K. Rowling’s phrase somewhat). Meanwhile, the lead baritone, while being a fair-to-middling actor, had all the vocal range of said teaspoon.

And just to mix it up a bit, some of the participants could do neither.

All of this is compounded by the fact that Ruddigore is a very decidedly average piece anyway, and is not, as I was led to believe, really about witchcraft. Briefly: a witch (in fact the only witch in the whole two-hour extravaganza) lays an ‘orrible curse upon a Baron And All His Descendents For Eternity. One of the said Descendants runs away and takes another name to escape said curse (because that’s exactly how curses work), leaving his brother in possession of the title. Cue the usual hilarious happenings: Marrying the Wrong Person, Overreaction to Perceived Betrayal, Curses Broken By Technicalities (a variation on the old favourite, Promises Waived By Technicalities), and, for some reason, Basingstoke.

Apart from “Ghosts’ High Noon” (featuring a chorus of ghosts, if you hadn’t already realised that), there are no catchy tunes, no rousing numbers, no rum-tum-tum on the military drum, and no proper ending, either, just some very strange people singing about Basingstoke. Badly. Altogether a disappointment, musically and dramatically.

I was under the impression that no Gilbert and Sullivan performance could be worse than Opera Anywhere’s Pirates of Penzance which I saw earlier this year. Ruddigore proves that, in fact, I was wrong.

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