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2015 Ruddigore - Synopsis

If you are unfamiliar with the story, this summary may help (spoiler alerts – but it is G&S, and other than Yeomen, you know how it’s going to turn out, don’t you?) –

The seaside village of Rederring, the local Castle and the Baronetcy of Ruddigore are under a curse – the Baronet must perform one crime each day or die in hideous torment.  This is enforced by the ghostly gallery of portraits representing his ancestors back to the original recipient of the Curse. 

The virtuous young man who should have inherited both the title and the curse could not bear this, so ran away at an early age, presumed dead by his family but living just outside the village as a prosperous farmer under the name of Robin Oakapple. 

He loves a lovely and virtuous, (though not terribly bright) maiden in the village – Rose Maybud, and is beloved of her in return, but he cannot tell her because he is shy and retiring, and she cannot tell him because to do so would offend the principles of etiquette she values above all else.  This is very frustrating to her Aunt, Dame Hannah, and to the group of professional bridesmaids mysteriously contracted to be on duty every day, but unable to fulfil their contract, since no local man wants to marry anyone other than Rose.

Robin’s foster brother, Richard Dauntless, a vain-glorious and not quite virtuous sailor, offers to speak to Rose on Robin’s behalf, but instantly falls for her beauty, proposing to her himself and winning her hand before she knows what is happening.  In a clever battle of wits, however, Robin subtly reminds her both that Richard is not quite the model of etiquette she has always sought, and that he himself not only has lovely manners, but a much more prosperous career as a gentleman farmer’s wife to offer her, and swiftly wins her back.

Rose, on her way to prepare for her wedding, encounters a crazed young lady (in G&S there’s always one) called Mad Margaret, driven insane the day her fiancé, Sir Despard Murgatroyd, the current Bad Baronet of Ruddigore inherited his title, and left her for his enforced life of crime.  She intends to pinch, crush or otherwise destroy Rose Maybud, since she has heard that Sir Despard’s plan for his next crime is to kidnap and carry off that particular maiden, presumably for a fate worse than death.  As she still loves him, and cannot conceive that any girl would not, she is jealous and aims to destroy Rose to prevent this. Rose objects, as she is about to marry someone else anyway

As it turns out, Sir Despard is really not that type after all – despite introducing a disreputable crowd of “Bucks and Blades” and raucous young revellers to the bridesmaids, he himself, though scary looking, remains virtuous at heart, and fools the picture gallery by committing his crime early in the day, then doing acts of charity in the afternoon.

Although Richard seemed to be easily fooled by Robin, he quickly has his revenge – he seeks out Sir Despard, and wonders aloud if he should tell the Baronet, that his elder brother is actually alive and about to marry Rose…   Sure enough, just as Robin and Rose are about to be married, Sir Despard leaps on the chance to return to a righteous life and announces that Robin is really Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd.

Rose, of course, could never marry a Bad Baronet, and throws herself at Sir Despard instead.  He, however, is pledged to Mad Margaret, and since he is now free to be good, he fulfils his promise and marries her.  With no-one else available, Rose falls back into the arms of a well-pleased Richard.

One week later, Sir Ruthven is struggling to commit any crimes acceptable to his ancestors, but refuses to countenance the suggestion of his once faithful servant, now villainous sidekick, Old Adam, that he should poison Richard and Rose who have just arrived at the castle.  They have come to plead with him, as feudal lord over the village, for his permission to marry.  Rose pleads, on the strength of their lost love, that if she cannot marry him, she should be allowed to marry the next best thing – his brother and oldest friend, and touched by this plea, he relents.

Such sentimental behaviour does not impress Sir Roderic Murgatroyd, at 10 years dead the most recently deceased Baronet in the Gallery, and he and his fellow portraits re-animate, in order to take Ruthven to task.  He tries to bluff them with some innocuous excuses for crimes, but not to be fooled, they insist that he must take his job seriously -  carry off a maiden that very day or perish.  At first he resists, but after a taste of the agony they inflict, and assure him will increase until his death, he gives up and orders Old Adam to go to the village and bring back any maiden he chooses.

Meanwhile, he is visited by the now extremely virtuous Despard Murgatroyd, Esq. and Margaret, his wife, who is trying extremely hard to curb the habits of ten years of madness in order to be a suitable pillar of the community by his side.  They come to rebuke him for his evil way of life, since, as he was righteous under false pretences, he is also responsible for all the crimes committed by the Baronet incumbent over the last ten years. 

Shocked and horrified, he vows to give up his life of crime and die after all.  Just as Sir Roderic appears to carry out his penalty for defying the curse, however, Old Adam reappears with the kidnapped maiden.  In a shocking twist, this turns out to be none other than Rose’s aunt, Dame Hannah, who turns out to be not only far from a typical helpless fainting damsel in distress, but also the former fiancée of Sir Roderic himself, who left him when he inherited the title and curse. 

Ruthven is ordered from the room, while the former lovers have a touching reunion, marred only by the fact that he is now dead.

Ruthven, Rose, Richard and the whole chorus return, because Ruthven has had an idea occur to him – he is about to defy the curse, and will therefore certainly die.  Taking an action that will certainly end in death is suicide – and suicide is a crime, so by deciding not to commit a crime each day, each day he is committing the crime of suicide.  By this reasoning, not only can he live as a Good, rather than a Bad Baronet!

Or possibly as plain Robin Oakapple after all – since Sir Roderic must have died in exactly the same manner, when crime eventually became unbearable to him, Sir Roderic is by law and logic ( G&S style!) restored to life and free to marry Dame Hannah.  At this point, Robin once again offers Rose the choice between himself and Richard – and she chooses Robin.

Richard, however, is not particularly bereft, he settles for the nearest available Bridesmaids, setting up yet another G&S classic – the triple wedding finale!