Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
The Nuffield Theatre,
June 2015
Director: Jo Short
Cast List
The Reader
Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre
Alexis Pointdextre
John Wellington Wells
Lady Sangazure
Mrs Partlett
The Butler

Notes on this performance

125. The Sorcerer

A marvellous illusion…

The Committee was worried about The Sorcerer, not only was it a notoriously poor seller but the Nuffield had just introduced an extra Box Office charge ensuring that they would take 8% + VAT of any income in addition to their usual hire fees. It therefore seemed prudent to cut losses and a Get In was arranged for the Monday instead of Sunday saving on some costs. Unfortunately, this meant that it would only be possible to give four performances of the show.

The next problem was finding a Directing Team and those who usually held such positions were less than enthusiastic. Paul Spanton was eager to help but his Monday commitments with the Philharmonic prevented him from being totally involved as the MD, however Martin Paterson came to the rescue offering to cover rehearsals when he was available and organising the band during show week. The position of Director was also proving difficult to fill until Pete Hill recommended Jo Short whose plans to direct Ruddigore for RAODs had been recently thwarted due to a shortage of men – happily she accepted the challenge.

As all three had a calm but demanding approach, rehearsals were extremely enjoyable and absenteeism was never an issue (just punctuality). The actual production was notable for a very minimalist set giving the illusion of the interior and then exterior of Sir Marmaduke’s mansion and the introduction of a reader (Sarah Fulcher) who was enjoying the story in a book as the action took place around her.

The Echo reviewer liked aspects of the show but found the diction from the chorus less than satisfactory, ‘I liked the ‘false start’, where the ‘wrong’ book was opened and the excellent orchestra, directed by Paul Spanton and conducted by the ever-reliable Martin Paterson, burst into a tune from another show. The sketchy plot roughly mirrors Shakespeare’s ‘Dream’ sequence, with the peripatetic Sorcerer (confidently played by Mike Pavitt) dispensing a tea additive that drugs the townsfolk so they awaken in love with the first person they see. This was the intention of lovers Alexis and Aline (Mathew Pike and Ellen Sly, who both performed believably) – that everyone might share their joy, but didn’t quite go to plan. Director Jo Short’s fine supporting cast included Abi Jeffery as the impressively-tragic Constance, but one lyric summed up, for me, the chorus numbers – “caught that line, but for the rest, I did not hear it clearly!” Perhaps I should have drunk the tea?’

Stuart Ardern, the NODA rep, gave the following ‘business’ a special mention, ‘Another Guest (Mike Allum) was asleep next to one of the servants (Katy Lewis), and Wells chose to move the Guest’s arm.  This was a great piece of comic timing.  As soon as the arm was moved, the whole audience knew where the hand was going; the comedy was in the expectation, enhanced by the time it took to get there.’

Despite savings made on hire of the theatre, the set and a five-piece band (the score was re-orchestrated accordingly by Paul Spanton), The Sorcerer only attracted 640 customers over the week and lost £1524. 

Terry O'Farrell 

 sor15 dance

                                     Mark Allen (Sir Marmaduke) and April Luescher (Lady Sangazure)

sor15 5

                          Mike Pavitt (John Wellington Wells), Matthew Pike (Alexis), Ellen Sly (Aline) 

sor15 10

          Mike Pavitt (John Wellington Wells), Matthew Pike (Alexis), Ellen Sly (Aline) with Sarah Fulcher (The Reader)

sor15 17

                                Mike Pavitt (John Wellington Wells), Matthew Pike (Alexis) and Ellen Sly (Aline)

sor15 8

                                                                Peter Hill (The Notary) and Abi Jeffery (Constance)

sor15 9

       Matthew Pike (Alexis), Mark Allen (Sir Marmaduke), Jo Barnard (Mrs Partlett), Ellen Sly (Aline), Paul Dawson-Plincke (Dr Daly)