Maria Bjornsons Theatre, Fri 22nd June, 2pm
May Week is here once again, and to finish off arguably the best few days of the Cambridge year, the Gilbert and Sullivan Society took to the stage with a production that was a treat in every sense.
This production of ‘The Sorcerer’ is firstly to be congratulated on its design, which, with a nod to the Jubilee, and despite its simplicity, gave the play an expressive colour that was both picturesque and celebratory. A particular joy was the oversized, Cath Kidston-style teapot, complete with eyebrow-raising special effects. The only piece of costuming that felt questionable was the labcoats for the “imps of deadly shade” that the sorcerer conjures up to generate the potion, which drives everyone in the village into falling in love inappropriately – and creates the uproar of the play. The sprites felt odd, because John Wellington Wells himself was quaintly but stylishly apparelled in a tailcoat, a bit of curious mysticism intruding into the life of the villagers, in their shawls and floral prints.
The singing was outstanding, especially Aline (Beth Partridge), who soloed the roof off – the production being as it was, accidentally indoors due to May Week weather caprice. As the titular mischief-maker, Declan Corr’s energetic showmanship and touch of mania was engagingly Wonka-esque. There were slips – from the less significant, such as Dr Daley (Chris Howarth) making the timeless mistake of forgetting he was holding an imaginary notebook that he had been writing in moments before – to the more significant: yet I think the audience very much enjoyed Alex Palmer, as Aline’s groom Alexis, amusingly failing to keep a straight face during a spot of mild domestic violence. However, his proficient soft-spoken deadpan made Alexis’ rhetoric very enjoyable, and very funny.
A review of the play cannot go without mentioning the many dexterous Cambridge-specific substitutions to Gilbert’s libretto, which also drew secure laughs: “I have addressed Robinson students on the advantages that would accrue to them if they married wealthy ladies from Trinity…”
The challenge with an ensemble cast is to keep them busy; in the opening, the chorus didn’t quite manage to avoid looking aimless or disconcerted, but they did manage to recover so that by the end, despite the play’s dubiously abrupt solution to all the mayhem, you find yourself delighted at even the pairing up of the more minor characters with their true loves. The main downside was that unlike previous Gilbert and Sullivan Society shows, the only musical accompaniment was limited to a keyboard, except for the droll touch of Dr Daley’s kazoo-playing. Despite this, ‘The Sorcerer’ provided a fun, lively and entertaining end to this year’s May Week.