Does Gilbert and Sullivan qualify as part of my literary tour of England? The operettas were written and published.
I didn’t, by the way, go to Britain for the purpose of visiting the literary-related sites I’ve been blogging about this fall. It’s just that, in the U.K. you can hardly walk without tripping over a reference to a literary figure, be it a home he once lived in, a place that inspired her or a statue or plaque.
Daphne du Maurier, who is associated with Cornwall, grew up in Hampstead, an attractive suburb in northwest London. We rode the bus to Hampstead on our last day in Britain. We didn’t see DuMaurier’s former home, but there’s probably a plaque on the building, like the one that surprised us when we exited Hamstead Heath park.
We also walked by a Hampstead home once occupied by poet, John Keats.
Back to Gilbert & Sullivan. In Cornwall, we saw a performance of their operetta, Ruddigore, at the Minack Theatre, billed as Cornwall’s theatre under the stars. The Minack is an open air amphitheatre set on a cliff on the Cornwall coast. It took a woman of vision to come up with the idea in the 1930s of building a outdoor theatre in a rainy climate at a barely accessible location, but the Minack endured and thrived. Our performance was almost sold out.
Most people had bought their tickets in advance, but we waited until the day of the event to make sure we got a clear night. But clear nights in Cornwall usually mean windy. Our four layers of clothes plus gloves and hats kept us almost warm enough.
Ruddigore was a Gilbert & Sullivan show that I hadn’t seen before. It has the usual G & S improbable premise and plot. In Ruddigore, a baron is cursed to do an evil deed a day or die. He fakes his death, forcing his brother to take his place. Complications arise as he is found out.
The play seemed a little darker than other Gilbert & Sullivans I’d seen, although this might have been the Cambridge University performers’ interpretation. The actors did an excellent job, especially the two playing the brothers.
That night in Cornwall, there was too much ambient light to see stars in the sky, but Minack was a unique theatre experience.