Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
The Avenue Hall,
April 1936
Cast List
Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd
Richard Dauntless
Sir Despard Murgatroyd
Old Adam Goodheart
Sir Roderic Murgatroyd
Rose Maybud (a)
Rose Maybud (b)
Mad Margaret (a)
Mad Margaret (b)
Dame Hannah (a)
Dame Hannah (b)

Notes on this performance

13. Ruddigore

A touch of melodrama…

The annual problem of the Committee recommending the next opera to the AGM and the members then voting for a different one was resolved this year, as the meeting was only given Ruddigore (the choice of the directing team – still G W Mitchell and C J Andrews) to vote for and this was carried unanimously. Mr Mitchell was also involved with Southampton Musical Society’s production of Tom Thumb and, as a result, some rehearsals had to be rearranged. 

The Grand Theatre was again investigated as a potential venue and, although a cheaper quotation (£150) was received, it was still considered to be too expensive, plus the group would not be able to provide its own Front of House staff (which would ‘affect the social side of the Society’) or sell its own ice creams. SAOS did make a donation of five guineas (£5.25) to the theatre’s charity as a ‘gesture’, but continued with six performances at the Avenue Hall and two Dress Rehearsals.

Serious discussions took place about the principle of double-casting and the role of the Casting Committee; many were in favour of single-casting only, others accepted double-casting provided it was applied to all parts and a few favoured hiring a professional from NODA to do the selecting. The Committee resolved these complaints at an EGM by persuading the meeting to agree to ‘A Casting Committee, comprising of the Chairman, Producer and Musical Director, to cast the parts and submit their findings to the Committee for approval.’ As a result, Ruddigore was partly double-cast (as usual) with the parts of Rose Maybud, Mad Margaret and Dame Hannah being shared. Rehearsals began at Lowman’s Café, where the cast listened to records of the show on Mr Whitworth’s gramophone and read through the libretto.

It is a surprise to learn that 2336 people paid to watch Ruddigore (118 less than for The Mikado), since the Avenue Hall was not very big and a 27 piece orchestra takes up room! Apparently, attendances on Monday and Tuesday were poor but the other performances were ‘standing room only’ and the Echo reporter was nothing if not consistent as he claimed the show to be, ‘the best that the Operatic Society has given’ and, ‘the best amateur light musical piece that I have seen in town,’ and, of course, ‘last night the opera went even better than on the first night.’ The Producer, Mr Mitchell, was also praised for his direction and portrayal of Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd where, ‘he gives an extraordinarily clever performance. A really fine piece of varied work, unquestionably one of this gifted actor’s best.’ Playing opposite him as Sir Despard was Philip Graham who, ‘was exceptionally good. In certain parts, of which this is one, Mr. Graham is better than any amateur I have seen anywhere. His sense of artistry is almost perfect.’

Ruddigore made a profit of £25 3s 10d (£25.19) but funds were again raided to bring the total given to charity to £37 19s 7d (£37.98) - this was shared almost equally between the Southampton Unemployed Fellowship, the Rotary Club’s Boys’ Holiday Fund and the Hampshire Home of Recovery.  

Terry O'Farrell

Photos of Thornes

                      Eva Thorne (Mad Margaret)                                                   Winifred Thorne (Rose Maybud)