Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Ruddigore: a matter of life and death and bad taste

 Roderick's entrance through the trap door

After Ruddigore's mixed First Night reviews, Gilbert made several changes to his production. While the original title, Ruddygore, created a furore amongst those who thought that it unsuitable for the ears of Ladies, there was another aspect of the first night which raised accusations of bad taste. A anonymous letter, signed 'A Savoyard' was sent to the editor of the St James Gazette complaining that "The love-scene between Hannah and the ghost of a man who has been ten years dead produced an uncomfortable impression.... it is a grisly idea; it is not funny; and it is in doubtful taste...". Ah, the sensibilities of the Victorians. Imagine if he'd seen The Rocky Horror Show.

The comment, along with accusations that Act 2 lacked pace, resulted in several changes - Sir Roderick no longer returned at the end by popping up through a trap door and surrounded by red flames, removing that demonic air which made his entrance to startling. The ghostly ancestors didn't return at all, but reappeared as the gentry of the first act (begging the question, what on earth were they doing there?) and a substantial amount of Hannah and Roderick's dialogue was cut altogether, losing, alas, Hannah's wonderfully tasteless line "But I should be the wife of a dead husband, Roddy!" It was generally agreed that the swifter conclusion picked up the pace of Act 2. But I would have loved to have see the original 'grisly' version.

- SW
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