The Sorcerer

Aug 23 2017 | By More

★★★★☆   What larks

Paradise in Augustines (Venue 152): Mon 21 – Sun 27 Aug 2017
Review by Hugh Simpson

For careful execution and straightforward fun, it is difficult to imagine many recent productions of Gilbert and Sullivan have beaten Cat-Like Tread’s The Sorcerer at Paradise in Augustines.

The story of a young man’s attempt to promote love across class divides with the help of a sorcerer’s love potion is extremely slight even by Gilbert and Sullivan standards, and not usually considered one of their best. However, it does set the pattern for many of their later successes, and is discharged by Cat-Like Tread with considerable skill and accomplishment.

Caroline Hood, Alex Gunn and Chris Cotter. Pic Tom Paton

From the moment the show starts, with an a cappella rendition of the overture featuring some well-chosen comic business, there is an assurance to the production that keeps up the pace and fun throughout. Directors Rae Lamond and Sarah Whitty ensure there is always something happening onstage, helping to reinforce the action rather than upstaging it.

Tom Paton and vocal coach Gillian Robertson must be congratulated for helping produce a series of crisp, well-paced songs, accompanied by Jamie Laing’s unflagging piano. The chorus numbers are particularly effective and laudably clear, but there is a high standard of soloist on display too.

Rebecca Anderson gives a pleasing comic performance as lovelorn young Constance, while Michael McFarlane’s frustrated cleric Dr Daly also has considerable humour.

Alex Gunn, as Alexis, the instigator of the potion plan, and Caroline Hood (his bride Aline) display a commendable lightness of touch.

Speed and accuracy

Chris Cotter, as the sorcerer John Wellington Wells, performs his patter song with speed and accuracy, as well as providing a brooding stage presence. There is also strong support from Scott Thomson (Alexis’s father), Rae Lamond (Aline’s mother), Judith Walker (Constance’s mother) and Andy Laing (the Notary).

The cast of The Sorcerer. Pic Tom Paton

The acting space at St Augustine’s is used cleverly, and its raked seating is certainly a massive step up from their previous home downstairs in terms of sightlines and audibility. At times the use of the stage is a little too expansive – occasionally a character will be at the back of the stage or have their back to the audience and words are lost.

That this is so noticeable only shows that the unamplified singing is wonderfully distinct the rest of the time. There is an attention to detail here that suffuses the whole of the production, as shown by that inventive opening and by Rachel Allan and Susanne Horsburgh’s excellent costumes.

That Cat-Like Tread are packing out the venue for such a comparatively little-known piece reinforces their belief that there is room for more G&S on the Fringe, and is testimony to the care they put into their work.

Running time 1 hour 40 minutes (no interval)
Paradise in Augustines, 41 George IV Bridge, EH1 1EL (Venue 152)
Monday 21 – Sunday 27 August 2017
Daily at 7.30 pm
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