Review – The Sorcerer

October 30, 2013 | By | Reply More

★★★☆☆   Slight of hand

Church Hill Theatre Tue 29 Oct – Sat 2 Nov 2013

Fun and frothy, there is little to deconstruct in Edinburgh G&S Society’s entertaining and distinctly slight production of The Sorcerer, which is at the Church Hill theatre to Saturday.

Fiona Main (Aline) and Darren Coutts (Alexis). Photo © Ross Main

Fiona Main (Aline) and Darren Coutts (Alexis). Photo © Ross Main

Posh boy Alexis, son of Sir Marmaduke, is to marry his one, true love: posh girl Aline, daughter of Lady Sangazure, in their sleepy West Country backwater of idyllic English rural village life at the end of the 18th century.

Of course all the villagers are very happy for the occasion and sing the couple’s praises fulsomely – particularly when Aline drops the choristers a few coins.

True love, freely given, the pompously dim Alexis declares, is a universal panacea, without the distinction of rank. From it all worldly pleasures follow. Indeed, it is his life’s work to preach the cause of free love to the masses: that rich should marry poor, young marry old, beautiful marry ugly and thus all will gain happiness.

In fact, he’s so enamoured of amour, he hires a family sorcerer, John Wellington Wells, to concoct a potion which will make all the village fall hopelessly in love with each other.

Supported with an exceptionally crisp and lilting delivery from the Orchestra conducted by David Lyle, the company set about this fluff in a suitably energetic manner. There is certainly a freshness of tone here – if not always in articulation, which could often improve.

Darren Coutts gives a smoothly-toned voice to Alexis, quite in keeping with his aloofness. He brings the same sense of being vastly better than all around to his acting performance, welling over with limpid joy at his impending nuptials.

It is quite clear that Aline is his intellectual superior on many levels, and Sullivan gives her the music to prove it. Fiona Main has no difficulty in rising to the occasion in the role. There is a delightful clarity to her voice which brings out all its brightness of tone. And she has the power to rise over both orchestra and chorus when needed.

“Delivers the list with real zip and drive”

Around them, Alan Borthwick is excellent as the local vicar, Dr Daly, who – by his own account – was something of a ladies man in his youth, but is now far too old to do anything about it. Indeed, he’s so disconsolate, that he fails to see that young Constance Partlet, daughter of a church functionary, is hopelessly infatuated with him.

Ian Lawson as John Wellington Wells. Photo © Ross Main

Ian Lawson as John Wellington Wells. Photo © Ross Main

Sarah Kim puts in an excellently observed performance as Constance – a dismally depressed and sour-faced individual who harps on about her failings in love although no-one wants to stop to listen. Of the various parents, Simon Boothroyd stands out as the rotund Sir Marmaduke.

But it is Ian Lawson as the sorcerer who has all the best lines. His patter song – My name is John Wellington Wells – is probably the best known number in the opera. He delivers the list of things which his various potions can do with real zip and drive. And when it comes to the creation of the love potion, he proves a deliciously maniacal magician – with some spectacular help from the special effects department!

As director, Alan Borthwick makes sure that there is plenty for the 30-strong chorus to do. At times the stage does feel a bit crowded and a wandering band seems remarkably at odds with the real band in the pit, but there are fun and entertaining scenes and characters being created all over the place.

Of course this is not so much about love as about class distinction – the love potion sends its users to sleep and they awake to fall for the first unmarried person they spy, who has also taken the potion. Leading to a whole range of unsuitable and unlikely liaisons.

Borthwick brings this out nicely and, while it certainly has all the feel of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera, he never lets it get the irritably stilted feel that many G&S societies achieve. Indeed, there is a somewhat natural feel to the whole production as it creates a corner of English sensibility.

Lightly frivolous this most certainly is, but it is also thoroughly entertaining. And also a welcome opportunity to see the company in the Church Hill theatre, rather than the expanse of the King’s.

Running time 2 hrs 10 mins
Run ends Saturday 2 November 2013
Evenings Tue – Sat 7.30 pm, Matinee Sat 2.30 pm
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Full details from http://www.edgas.org
Online tickets from: www.usherhall.co.uk

The full cast of EDGAS' 2013 production of The Sorcerer. Photo © Ross Main

The full cast of EDGAS’ 2013 production of The Sorcerer. Photo © Ross Main

ENDS

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