The Sorcerer

Gilbert and Sullivan
Charles Court Opera
Wilton's Music Hall

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The Sorceror Company Credit: Bill Knight
Ellie Neate & Matthew Palmer Credit: Bill Knight
Meriel Cunningham & Hugo Herman-Wilson Credit: Bill Knight

Nineteen-fifties England receives the breath of life in Charles Court Opera’s peachy revival of Gilbert and Sullivan classic The Sorcerer.

The Victorian duo’s soapy vision of Englishness has been effectively transposed into 1950s village life, where The Darling Buds of May and The League of Gentleman might rub shoulders with Terry Thomas.

The scene opens on an ice cream van serving teas and scones to a milieu of familiar types. Meriel Cunningham is skilful as a bookish schoolgirl infatuated by the affable Vicar. Matthew Palmer strikes a good note as Sir Marmaduke, a fading father of groom-to-be Alexis, who is still in love with childhood sweetheart and village matron Lady Sangazure played by Catrin Kirkman.

Lovers Aline and Alexis, played by Ellie Neate and Robin Bailey respectively, have robustly beautiful voices which guide us on a journey that sees the village enchanted by the ‘filter’ of a mysterious travelling spiv / Sorcerer, played with repertory theatre-style panache by Richard Suart.

The premise of a hokum-potion making anyone who drinks it fall in love with the first willing object of affection, leaves characters in pairings that are socially taboo in Topsy-Turvy land and, occasionally, beyond.

Bookish Constance becomes enchanted with the elderly Notary, played convincingly by Hugo Herman-Wilson, whom she is committed to nursing for the rest of his life. Salt of the earth ice cream van proprietor Mrs Partlett (Rosie Strobel) finds herself in a tryst with squire of the manor-type Sir Marmaduke, and Aline herself is mesmerised by the curate who married her.

All performances are notable in this village-fete cake of a show; from Aline’s swoony solo "Oh Happy Young Heart" to the senior lovers’ romantic duet ("Welcome Joy!") and Matthew Kellet’s jolly vicar, there is a generous slice of hutzpah and panache.

The only thing letting down this energetic force is the Victorian duo’s plot, which, beyond the initial Midsummer Night’s Dream crisis, has little to enthral other than the pantomime antics that ensue.

The Sorcerer could be likened to the potion-infused poem Goblin Market by Christina Rosetti, only without the sophistication. This makes Wilton’s Music Hall yet again the venue of choice for an entertaining retelling of a very silly opera.

Reviewer: Tamsin Flower

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