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(Above l. to r.) Albert Wetherspoon the royal gardener, Queen Caroline, King Rufus, Puss and Pongo the pet dragon
Created by Gordon Murray, 'Rubovia' began as a black and white childrens' puppet play for the BBC in the mid 1950s presented by The BBC Puppet Theatre.
The first Rubovia play was transmitted live in December 1955 and was entitled 'The Queen's Dragon' and was performed by string marionettes.
Working with puppeteers Bob Bura and John Hardwick, and designers Andrew and Margaret Brownfoot, Murray went on to write and direct 26 further episodes of the series between about 1955 and 1960. 'Rubovia' was made in a very different style to the series for which Murray is now better known, involving large, string-operated puppets with caricatured features. Among those lending their vocal talents to the series were Roy Skelton, (later to become the voice of Zippy in Thames TV's 'Rainbow'), and radio comedy panel game supremo, the late Derek Nimmo.
'Rubovia' was a magical medieval kingdom presided over by King Rufus (voice by Derek Nimmo) and Queen Caroline (who had a rather Edith Evansish sort of voice) shouting "Pongo, Pongo, Pongo" in quick succession whenever she wanted her pet dragon.
The Royal couple were spared the usual bloodthirsty attempts at regicide that tended to haunt monarchs in the middle ages, but instead they had to deal with a more persistent and inconvenient problem; namely the liking of the more eccentric members of their court for dabbling in conjuring tricks, which inevitably produced hilariously disastrous results. The main instigator of the ill-fated attempts at magic was Albert Wetherspoon, the royal gardener, who always played the organ with his cat pressing the air pump ("pressure up puss!") and Rubovia's equivalent of King Arthur's wizard Merlin.
Aiding and abetting him in his bumbling magic misadventures were Pongo, Caroline's pampered pet dragon, who turned into a cabbage whenever he hiccupped, and the beleagured Lord Chamberlain. Meanwhile, Rufus himself was usually up to no good too, more often than not in the company of his neighbouring associate King Boris.
There were often crowd scenes where the populace was always clearly less than impressed by the Royal Family's antics.
The episodes were repeated throughout the early 1960s, almost right up until the moment when Gordon Murray unleashed the first glimpse of 'Trumptonshire' on an unsuspecting nation.
Some of the
stories told in the series were:
"Clocks and Blocks"
"Zara Knows All"
Knight for a Day"
Something in the Air"
"The Unreliable Wand"
Hans Christian Andersens "The Emperors New Clothes"
John Ruskins "King of the Golden River"
(Above l. to r.) The Lord Chamberlain, King Rufus, Queen Caroline, Pongo the pet dragon, Puss and Albert Wetherspoon the royal gardener, from 'Clocks and Blocks'
(to see a colourised version of this picture visit the Rubovian Legends website)
A short video clip from Rubovia
Rubovia Theme Music
Music by Patrick Harvey
In the late 1970's six of the plays were remade in colour, with newly designed puppets and settings, using "stop motion" method of animation. Some new characters were introduced such as Farmer Bottle and an Indian with a Chinese accent called McGregor, who would often give hints to Wetherspoon from over the garden wall from the top of a ladder.
The music for this new series of Rubovia was provided by Freddie Philips who was later to create all the music for the Trumptonshire series.
(The official Rubovia website)
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