Open Letter From An Opera Queensland Cast Member In Ruddigore, Or The Witch's Curse!

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The shy and law-abiding Robin Oakapple wants to propose to Rose Maybud but the only problem is, he's living in disguise to hide a deep secret.


Opera Queensland is presenting 'Ruddigore, Or The Witch's Curse!' which tells the story of Robin who is bound to obey a terrible curse: that he must commit a crime every single day or face death.

Here, Christine Johnston – who plays a character named Mad Margaret – pens an open letter about the show.

“Coming from a visual arts, garage-band, cabaret, comedy performance background, I was a wide-eyed first timer to opera in 2015 when I was invited to be the Old Lady with one buttock in OperaQ’s 'Candide'. After having had such a ball on that production with the entire team, I confess I couldn’t wait for another opportunity to dive again into this larger-than-life artform with a full orchestra!

When the delicious carrot of Mad Margaret in 'Ruddigore, Or The Witch’s Curse!' came dangling before me, I leapt at it… especially when teamed with the thought of working again with ingenious director Lindy Hume and the incredible team that Lindy has brought together. It is not only my enjoyment of delving into another interesting character, (Mad Margaret has quite a few layers to peel), or singing with a full orchestra, or riding the dramatics with the awesome audiences that come, or bouncing off such a fun cast, but it is also the creative, contemporary look at this particular production of 'Ruddigore', (one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s most rarely staged light operas), that Lindy and her team will bring together that I am most excited about.

Described as 'a sepia-tinted gothic horror story where good and evil go hilariously hand in hand in a seaside village full of bridesmaids and a haunted house whose ancestral gallery comes alive at the Ghosts’ High Noon', I’m certain this production will satisfy the side of me that has a soft-spot for the gothic, for light and dark, a good laugh at our human selves, an embrace of our frailties, a jolly good sing, and great costuming – and all this with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO)!

The fact that it is a big team working together on bringing a contemporary lens and sensibility to a very peculiar Victorian world with all its strange obsessions in this old G&S classic, rather than a self-devised or co-created production as I am accustomed, is a whole other experience for me. I always enjoy diversity in music and performance so this has me over the moon. I played the musical saw with the orchestra in 'Candide', and thanks to Lindy I am rediscovering another instrument from my deep past to briefly play with the QSO in 'Ruddigore'.

Mad Margaret is a support role. She is a fun character as she is certainly unpredictable and out there, but is also quite soft and hopeful too. She has gone quite 'mad' as she waits almost a decade for her only beloved after their one romantic encounter in Basingstoke where he stole her heart. Her beloved is the bad Baronet of 'Ruddigore' Sir Despard Murgatroyd, who has fallen under a witch’s curse that gives him no alternative but to commit one horrendous crime a day or die a hideous death. That is merely one layer to this multi-layered comic horror.

We are in rehearsals now, and they are a compelling process. We all bring our many and varied experiences, our fears, strengths, ideas and laughter into the rehearsal room and it is very bonding. When there is great chemistry in rehearsal and on stage it transfers to the audience, and this is one of my favourite things about live performance. It’s about everyone together including the audience. I can’t wait, 'Ruddigore, Or The Witch’s Curse!' is the perfect show for first-time operagoers and seasoned attendees of Opera Queensland’s grand productions.”
– Christine Johnston


'Ruddigore, Or The Witch's Curse' plays 14-29 July at Queensland Performing Arts Centre.

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