Tag Archives: Rosemary Ashe




Wilton’s Music Hall

RUDDIGORE at Wilton’s Music Hall



“A mixed bag, some ingredients working better than others. And the overall flavour is certainly enhanced in the magical surroundings of Wilton’s Music Hall.”


“Ruddigore” or “The Witch’s Curse” was originally spelled “Ruddygore”, but the title was changed because people (I’m guessing a small vocal minority) were offended by the use of the word ‘Ruddy’. And there we all were thinking that umbrage was a twenty-first century invention. Nevertheless, both Arthur Sullivan and William Gilbert were of the opinion that their ‘supernatural opera’ was not, perhaps, their finest hour. Despite a long hiatus – of over thirty years – between its premiere and its first revival, it has still managed to survive. Possibly the couple were too hard on themselves, for there is much to admire and savour in this madcap oddity of a comic opera.

It bears all the hall marks of the stock melodrama. The villain who carries off the maiden, the virtuous heroine, the hero in disguise, the snake in the grass, the wild and mad woman. And ghosts and their curses. It is certainly advisable to brush up on the basic plot before attending Peter Benedict’s current revival of the musical. The offbeat libretto isn’t only to blame – the delivery is often unclear, particularly during the ensemble moments and especially when Gilbert’s tricksy, ‘topsy-turvy’ lyrics launch into breakneck mode.

At the heart of the story is the curse of Ruddigore. Centuries before, the first Baronet of Ruddigore persecuted witches, one of whom placed the curse. All future Baronets must commit one crime every day, or die in agony. The current Baronet has faked his own death years before to avoid inheriting the curse, leaving his younger brother with the deadly burden. Returning to the scene under an alias he is soon rumbled. Well – with a posse of unemployed bridesmaids, loose-tongued confidants, long-lost brothers, and a love interest that re-defines the word ‘fickle’; what could possibly go wrong?

Joe Winter is charm personified as Robin Oakapple though really Ruthven Murgatroyd, the Baronet who has shirked his criminal responsibilities. It takes seconds for Madeline Robinson’s deliciously, innocent yet pragmatic Rose Maybud to fall for him. Seconds later she is betrothed to Robin’s long-lost, cocksure brother. When the other, younger brother appears and has his wrongfully placed curse lifted, Rose decides she’d actually prefer him as a husband. Yes – really! It is ridiculous, often funny, but could be much more fun if the pace were to keep up with the elements of farce surrounding the absurdity. There is an innovative, anachronistic opener which places the action in the present before being whisked into Victoriana, but bizarrely this is not followed through. Had it done so, the script’s rather abrupt ending could have been smoothed over.

It is a show of two halves. After interval, the tone darkens and allows for some technical trickery courtesy of video designer Tom Fitch. The spookiness is underplayed but the surrealism is cranked up somewhat, and the dead duet with the living. Musical Director Tom Noyes leads the musical accompaniment; an ensemble comprising some of the cast, a few click tracks and violinist Luca Kocsmárszky who plays on stage, perched on the fringe of the action, watching – and seemingly judging – throughout.

A mixed bag, some ingredients working better than others. And the overall flavour is certainly enhanced in the magical surroundings of Wilton’s Music Hall. You’re not quite sure what to expect. So, at least there aren’t expectations for it to live up to. Taken with a pinch of salt, there is plenty to enjoy and discover. It was written with tongue in cheek and, if viewed in the same way, it has great entertainment value. Not to mention the genius of Gilbert and Sullivan which informs this eccentric libretto and score.


Reviewed on 17th March 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Charlie and Stan | ★★★★★ | January 2023
A Dead Body In Taos | ★★★ | October 2022
Patience | ★★★★ | August 2022
Starcrossed | ★★★★ | June 2022
The Ballad of Maria Marten | ★★★½ | February 2022
The Child in the Snow | ★★★ | December 2021
Roots | ★★★★★ | October 2021


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The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical

Ambassadors Theatre

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ - The Musical

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical

Ambassadors Theatre

Reviewed – 3rd July 2019



“joyful, energetic and hilarious, with some moments of real tenderness and yearning”


I admit to being unsure if Sue Townsend’s geeky Mole would translate well as a piece of musical theatre, and I’m happy to say that my scepticism was unfounded. The show is joyful, energetic and hilarious, with some moments of real tenderness and yearning that bring a tear to the eye. It is a piece that truly reflects the time in which it was written and is set, the early 80s. There are lots of references that older audience members clearly enjoyed; Pebble Mill at One, Malcolm Muggeridge and, of course, the Royal Wedding. And it matters not at all that the younger ones don’t pick up on those moments; the lives of Adrian and his friends and family have plenty for everyone to relate to and enjoy.

The children’s parts are each played by a rotating cast of four. Adrian was played by Rufus Kampa this evening, and the huge applause and standing ovation he received were richly deserved. His Adrian had all the awkwardness and angst of Townsend’s much loved young teen, coping with his parent’s awful marriage and break up and discovering himself as an intellectual with a passion for the feisty, pretty new girl at school – Pandora. And Rebecca Nardin’s Pandora was pitch perfect; the flame that called to Adrian’s moth, sparkling, feisty and very funny. Her voice has a range and depth that are unusual in such a young performer, and she has a wonderful comedic instinct. Jeremiah Davan Waysome played Adrian’s friend, and rival for Pandora’s attention, Nigel with a lovely cheeky energy and the school bully, Barry, was made suitably odious by Jack Gale.

The adults in the cast also play children, and were clearly having a lot of fun doing so. The poignant moments between Adrian’s parents, Pauline and George, played by Amy Ellen Richardson and Andrew Langtree, were beautifully moving, and Richardson’s song ‘Perfect Mother’ was so full of sadness and regret that it hurt. ‘How Could You?’ a painful and powerful argument between Pauline and Grandma allowed both women to let rip with passion, a serious and intense moment, and a reflection of many such a confrontation from the real world. Rosemary Ashe’s Grandma is, by turns, fun, interfering and helpful to Adrian and his Dad, and she brings verve and a fabulous voice to the role. Ian Talbot gave a good turn as the grumpy communist Bert and Laura Denning clearly relishes hamming it up to just the right degree as Miss Elf and Doreen Slater. The final member of the adult cast is John Hopkins, and he somehow managed to strut, bluster and give a storming performance that was always just on the right side of overacting. His vile Mr Scruton, the headmaster, was a great, bombastic villain, and the sleazy lothario, Mr Lucas from next door, was just deliciously awful.

Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary first wrote the book, music and lyrics in 2012, when they were ‘a pair of naive twenty four year olds.’ They met Sue Townsend and she was so impressed that she sold them the rights for a pound. She was worried that the story may be dated but, as Brunger and Cleary explained to her; ‘Despite the internet and mobile phones and all those terribly modern things, spots were still spots, school was still school, and boys still measured their things.” Director Luke Sheppard has translated their vision into a show that bounces with life and allows the early eighties to exist without trying to alter things for our contemporary sensibilities.

There is some inspired and very funny, choreography from Rebecca Howell and Mark Collins and the musicians do a great job with the score. The lighting design, by Howard Hudson, is unusual and effective and Tom Rogers’ set is an evocative, flexible home for the action. I found myself humming ‘Misunderstood’ on the way to the tube. This show has some good tunes too! The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical is an excellent adaptation vividly brought to life by an outstanding cast


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Pamela Raith


The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical

Ambassadors Theatre until 12th October


Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
The Thread | ★★½ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | March 2019
Yamato – Passion | ★★★★★ | Peacock Theatre | March 2019
Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough | ★★½ | Park Theatre | April 2019
Little Miss Sunshine | ★★★★★ | Arcola Theatre | April 2019
Man Of La Mancha | ★★★★ | London Coliseum | April 2019
Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: The Taming Of The Shrew | ★★★★★ | Leicester Square Theatre | April 2019
On Reflection | ★★★★★ | Underbelly Festival Southbank | May 2019
Zara | ★★★★★ | Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park | May 2019
Elixir Extracts Festival: Company Of Elders | ★★★★★ | Lilian Baylis Studio | June 2019
Napoli, Brooklyn | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | June 2019


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