Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
The Guildhall,
March 1953
Cast List
Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd
Richard Dauntless
Sir Despard Murgatroyd
Old Adam Goodheart
Rose Maybud
Mad Margaret
Dame Hannah
Sir Roderic Murgatroyd

Notes on this performance

26. Ruddigore

General auditions…

When Alfred Tomalin took over as Producer in 1951, the Committee resolved to re-audition all the members every three years in an effort to improve standards, but then nothing happened… This decision was now remembered and Rule 21 was put into action with the intention of completing the task before rehearsals for Ruddigore commenced. However, four men failed to attend on the designated evening; Bert Clague and Ronald Hoskins agreed to come on another night but Horace Martin and Thomas Wandlass were not so accommodating. The fate of the ‘rebellious’ pair was discussed and the Secretary/Producer was authorised to ‘exercise his discretion in excusing them from auditioning if he thought it desirable.’

Two ladies were not treated so sympathetically. Phyllis Hooley and Susan Jasper were deemed not to have reached the desired standard and were informed that they could not be included in Ruddigore; they were, however, thanked for their support over many years. Meanwhile, nine new members were accepted, though three of them were under 17 and not guaranteed a place in the production (one was eventually disappointed). This was also the first show for 17 year old Pamela Fulford (later Pam Hoskins and Pam de Grouchy) who went on to serve the Society as a principal, director and chairman and was made a Life Member and entrant in the Hall of Fame.

The Ruddigore principal auditions failed to produce a suitable Mad Margaret but, when the part was re-auditioned, six ladies put themselves forward and Shirley Blakey was eventually awarded the role - ‘subject to a month’s trial period’. Plans to display photographs of the principals (preferably in costume) in the Guildhall foyer were foiled because of the prohibitive costs.

Shirley Blakey passed her month’s trial and The Echo reported that she ‘managed successfully the difficult role of Mad Margaret.’ Special mention was also made of other leading ladies, ‘Jill Price made a charming Rose Maybud, singing delightfully and playing the not-so-artless village maiden with an easy confidence,’ and as usual, ‘Then there was Marjorie Kennedy putting into the Dame Hannah part that majestic manner which all these Katisha roles demand and which she is able to do so well.’

Tom Judd received his regular accolade from the reporter; ‘Tom Judd played Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd with the same mastery as he has shown in previous productions. Few can equal his skill in the rapid patter song; few can make so amusing or so convincing these curious characters that Gilbert has drawn.’ In addition to that, ‘Bruce Ellery made a splendidly desperate Sir Despard, and was even better when he became the reformed Mister Murgatroyd freed from the crime a day bogey.’

Ticket sales for Ruddigore were satisfactory but the cost of production was causing concern (especially that of the orchestra). Nevertheless, the show made a profit of  £62 2s 8d (£62.14) and from the proceeds £50 was shared equally between Hope Lodge, Talbot House in Bernard Street, the PDSA and the Newspaper Press Fund.

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Principals

Bruce Ellery (Sir Despard Murgatroyd), Shirley Blakey (Mad Margaret), Bernard Harman (Sir Roderic Murgatroyd), Marjorie Kennedy (Dame Hannah), Tom Judd (Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd), Jill Price (Rose Maybud), Geoffrey Clark (Richard Dauntless), Margaret Glover (Zorah), Bert Clague (Old Adam Goodheart), Barbara Vick (Ruth)