Friday, 2 August 2013

South Anglia Savoy Players: The Sorcerer

A classy production, tonight. Literally so; class distinctions are central to the costumes, the characterizations, and the accents. We have a high-class shindig with servants in attendance, and all's clean and tidy... that is, until Gilbert tips it all on its head, of course. And there were enough people in each class, in each chorus, that the stage looked satisfyingly full. Altogether, a great fun evening. There, review's done, I can stop now right? Oh, you want to know why I said that? All right, I suppose I'd better go into detail.... right oh.

The show's called The Sorcerer, so I'll start with him. John Wellington Wells (not to be confused with John Wellington, who is wielding magic of a quite different sort around the Festival this year; I'm referring here to Adam Sullivan) carried his scenes with energy and enthusiasm, with plenty of fun moments - dragging his boat-anchored leg on stage in time to answer "What is to be done" with an anguished "I do not know!!", before composing himself enough to come up with a solution. (The solution was executed very simply with a blackout, but unfortunately the blackout wasn't quite entire, and we could see him walk off stage. But we get the idea.) His boat-anchor, of course, resolved itself into the Lady Sangazure (Joanna Tripp), who is normally far more dignified than that. Their frantic debate over which of them was to switch class with the other was less dignified, of course, but no less fun, than her earlier demeanor. Her daughter Aline (Jenny Haxell) seemed genuinely hurt at the thought that her beloved distrusted her enough to want to force a philtre on her, yet hardly so when, under the influence of said philtre, she is caught in another man's arms. ("He's glowering at her and threatens a blow" - I can't recall ever being convinced that he's threatening to strike her.) What a vision she was in her fine dress (and for me to notice the costumes, they have to be pretty amazing!); it must have taken a dozen of the servants a dozen days to get her into it. Dr Daly (Mick Wilson), in whose arms she was found (unlike some Sorcs I could mention, this one did follow Gilbert's words and intentions), appears to have his declining days solaced by a strange singing bird... an actual bird in a cage (well, okay, probably a stuffed or wooden bird, but close enough) which sang with him in "Oh my voice is sad and low". You are old, Father Daly, yet - by definition - not quite as old as the Notary (Patrick Gallagher), whose strong bass voice carried marvellously across the orchestra and all the way up to the gallery in his duet with Constance (Kayleigh McEvoy (not Fry)). Poor Constance, nothing ever works out right for her... even at the end, she's stuck with a rather elderly Dr Daly, but at least she loves him. She moans to her mother s Partlet (Anthea Kenna) that her heart is almost broken; fortunately, there's a lot of difference between "almost broken" and "all broken". With all broken, well, there's only one thing to do: Go through the ventricles and look for loose change. But I digress. Alexis (Lawrence Panter), the cause of all offending, managed to slip in the festival's third Harrogate reference (not that anyone's counting, of course: when offered a ten percent discount for prompt cash, he cited that he was a "member of the Harrogate Guild of Theatres", to which Wells replied that he would "deduct 50% from all Buxton hotel bookings next year"! (South Anglia also farewelled Buxton from the cabaret stage with a full-room rendition of Help! Oh A Tree. Where but the G&S Festival could you sing a piece like that, and have the entire room join in?) And finally, Sir Marmaduke (Paul Tarrant) binds the whole show together in a way; he straddles nearly all of the subplot lines, keeping control over everything... and in the end, his reward is a Grand Duke-esque satisfaction of seeing his jam and buns devoured by the local populace. What a strange world this is.

The incantation scene is often the focal point for a show's entire special effects budget. It's certainly a scene that can benefit from a bit of pyro, or perhaps smoke, or something. Tonight, what we had was a disembodied hand passing up a huge glowing teapot, and then passing up three vials ("Number One! Number Two! Number Threeeeeee!!!!") which Wells used to make the real potion (in three normal-sized teapots). Simple and quite effective. My one regret there is that the offstage chorus was all but inaudible, so we lost a lot of the singing. An excellent chorus, too, as evidenced by "Heaven bless our Aline" and other scenes, where the vocal balance was superb; would have liked to have heard them here. But, as they say in Phantom, these things do happen. We're shiny, captain!

Lighting was effective. (No spots, they managed without them.) Nobody was ever left singing in the dark unless the plot demanded it (and when it does, it didn't look half bad - I do like a good blackout!); and for the debate about who's to die, strongly colored cross lights gave a powerful effect (which was then reprised for Wells's curtain call - fun). And the show finished with God Save The Queen sung by a thousand people (well, probably a bit less, there were a lot of empty seats around) and the entire company on the stage. A strong close to a strong show.

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