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DramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Northern Stage, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Reviewer: Anna Ambelez

Writer: Laura Lindow

Director: Maria Crocker

Atmospheric music (Katie Doherty), swirling smoke, sinister lightning and caped figures start the show. “Long, long ago before time began…” two wizard cousins fought and lost all their magic powers. The wicked wizard, Canopus Sly (Jessica Johnson) sets out to find the one to unlock the magic, the sorcerer’s apprentice.

While 13 is unlucky for some, Hatty Rabbit (Beth Crame) is an exception. As the 13th child, she has been endowed with magical powers and elected to be the sorcerer’s apprentice. This is Hattie’s story and Crame carries the audience along energetically unfolding her story. As her mother (Alice Blundell) dies at childbirth, she is entrusted to Aunt Primula Fudge (Heather Dutton) who banishers her to a delinquent ‘school’ when she is 12;  Hatty find her two best friends there, Evie Spelk (Talia Nyathi) and Rats (puppet operated by Mathew Nicholson).

Some character’s costumes (Amanda Mascarenhas) excel. Dutton’s is bold, bright, big, beautiful and over the top, as is the actor, lighting up the stage on every entrance. There is less magic in Hopkin Hopkins, the sorcerer’s (Nick Figgis) – not at all magical and apart from a pointy hat and sequins boots, rather bland as is the part. Jessica Johnson’s role also could have more content and the actor is well able to cope as her opening of the second half shows; what child does not love a magician and a baddie? While there are many good performances, Rats must be mentioned, stealing many scenes, his puppeteer, Nicholson, hardly noticeable as Rats is so enchanting. Rats does have a ‘number joined by two ‘friends’ but more puppets (Georgia Hill and Alison McGowan) would be delightful, if the audience’s adoration of Rats is a gauge.

Excellent lighting (Jai Morjaria) enhances the production, highlighting the action. Various scenes evolve before your eyes, greatly aided by the lighting and sound effects (Matthew Tuckey). Katie Doherty comes up with some great original numbers that are well performed. A delightful sprinkling of ‘magic’ tricks, producing gasps of delight, but some, such as the self-writing quill, are too subtle for many to see, especially for children, unless you are very near the front.

Scottish award winning writer Laura Lindow, known for her successful adaption of HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds took this classic tale from a 1797 poem by the German Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, updated it and placed it in Newcastle, a hidden Newcastle. There are elements of popular culture, with shades of Harry Potter and Back to the Future, even Strictly Come Dancing gets a mention. The first half skips merrily along, involving the audience, introducing different characters, developing the story, while the second half, mainly in the Sorcerer’s laboratory, loses some of its previous life and vigour.

Maria Crocker made her main stage debut with the 2021 production and returns to the helm, last year having many performances cancelled due to circumstances beyond control. She uses the stage well and the nine entrances. The cast do tend to address their performances mainly to those at the side of the stage and the first few rows, rarely to the wider audience. Unfortunately this is not an unusual occurrence. A small appreciative audience, but beautifully formed, as is the production and enjoyed by all.

Runs until 7th January 2023.

The Reviews Hub Score

Prestidigitated production

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The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East

The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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