The inhabitants of the sleepy village of Ploverleigh gather to celebrate the betrothal of golden couple Alexis Pointdextre and Aline Sangazure, while future in-laws Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre and Lady Sangazure, both widowed, supress their own long held feelings for each other for the sake of propriety. Young maiden Constance Partlett secretly yearns for the local vicar, Dr. Daly, who seems oblivious to all amorous overtures, despite her mother, the formidable Mrs Partlett’s unsubtle attempts at bringing them together. Seeing such unrequited and unfulfilled love all around them, the newly-betrothed Alexis tells his fiancée of his plan to unite all classes and ranks in the village in love, by inviting notable ‘sorcerer’ John Wellington Wells, to prepare a ‘love potion’ and administer it to everyone present at the wedding feast by adding it to the tea. On awakening, Alexis assures, each person will fall in love with the first person they see, and the happiness of all is guaranteed. Of course, what results is a set of wholly inappropriate matches, and classic G & S parody of society and class distinction.
The Sorcerer was the first full-length operetta penned by Gilbert and Sullivan, dating from the early 1870s, and the pair had yet to establish many of the trademark ingredients of their later, more often revived works. Both fresh and engagingly simplistic, this production is cleverly set in the 1970s, and the innocence and sentimentality of the Victorian original is neatly updated to an era of burgeoning sexuality and experimentalism, but where matters of love are still discussed in terms we consider quaint today.
As you would expect from the first class Opera Della Luna, in this new production, you get a full-bodied, rollicking G & S romp with knock-out performances, and inspired direction (by Jeff Clarke), turning the lack of a full chorus, into a positive asset. Richard Gauntlett (as Wells), Sylvia Clarke (Lady Sangazure), Ian Belsey (Sir Marmaduke) and Clare Watkins (Constance) head a superb cast, and Oliver White and Abigail Iveson (young lovers Alexis and Aline) stand out with their extra-ordinary vocal talents. Graham Hoadly plays the redoubtable Mrs Partlett as a cross between ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ and Mrs Brown (Brendan O’Caroll’s inglorious Mrs Brown and Her Boys), providing many of the evening’s biggest laughs, avoiding out and out pantomime.
Opera Della Luna’s productions are always imaginative and innovative, and the company plays a significant role in the re-imagining and re-invigoration of Gilbert and Sullivan for modern audiences. They deliver on a scale that is realistic and practical for a regional touring company, and make up for any shortfall in cast numbers with enormous style, wit, and boundless energy from all involved.
The Sorcerer is spell-binding, and this production an absolute delight.