The skills of Illyria’s artistic director Oliver Gray, himself present for the first time at Lytham Hall, were matched by those of his cast of six in this entertaining version of Ruddigore.
The high energy performance and unashamed doubling up, at the opposite end of the spectrum from the traditional stately pace and large chorus of the D’Oyly company, gives momentum to one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s lesser known works which is sympathetically accompanied by musical director Robert Hazle on keyboards.
Matthew James Willis is a jaunty and appealing Richard Dauntless, Cornish accent to the fore, whilst Edward Simpson as Robin Oakapple, especially accomplished with the patter song, is clear and comical throughout. The tall and commanding Sam Wright, magnificent with over-the-top melodrama, booms out his numbers with relish as Sir Despard, the bad Baronet.
Emma Clare, Rachel Lea-Gray and Jennifer Cullen all excel vocally, contributing fine singing, vitality and homeliness to dialogue which is sometimes slightly long-winded, as the complicated plot unfolds. The well-designed set change for the second half enables the scenes with the ancestral ghosts coming to life to be neatly presented.
The sizeable audience, many clearly au fait with the specialities of Gilbert and Sullivan, were appreciative and enthusiastic, as Illyria showed a mastery of every aspect of outdoor performance. Oliver Gray, this year celebrating 25 years of professional open air touring shows, should be rightly proud of this production.