The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Newcastle Northern Stage
Until Saturday 7 January 2023
An original take on a magical story is holding its audiences in its spell at Northern Stage. It is a gripping tale of good and not so good, magic and out of the ordinary happenings. It is also a really good show for the family to see.The Christmas show at Newcastle’s Northern Stage is always a special moment in the calendar. Whilst most theatres head for the pantomime route, Northern Stage definitely stick to telling a story, leading their young audiences into the world of theatre. Shamelessly starting them on a journey that can last a life time. After nurturing them in a special show for the under 5s, children find themselves in the big room.
Now don’t get us wrong here…our long time readers will remember us document the “difficult years” for this occasion - when some ill advised shows lost their sparkle. But you’ll also note that we also reported the return of the shows mojo in recent years. Then the epidemic stopped the fun…The good news is that this year’s show is special. Really special in fact. It is a show in which the decisions were given the correct call. Not just set design, costumes, lighting, sound and script. Not just a cast that really bring the show alive. No - this show has an extra sprinkling of theatre magic. This is obvious every time I heard young voices around us gasp and make an involuntary remark. It may have been the 10.30am Saturday performance.
The audience may have been young - but the two hour show had them hanging on to every moment all of the way. The fact that the audience is on three sides of the action means that the audience can see the excited faces leaning forward.
Alice Blundell is the Mam who gives birth to thirteen babies on Christmas Day.
Alice Blundell is the Mam who gives birth to thirteen babies on Christmas Day. Whilst a home is quickly found for 12, the thirteenth is sent off to life with her less-than-impressed Aunt Primula Fudge (Heather Dutton).Beth Crame brings child 13, Hatty Rabbit, to life on a journey from being ‘Nowt Special’ to a Sorcerer’s Apprentice and beyond. Accompanying Hatty on her journey is Rats, a puppet expertly manipulated by Matthew Nicholson, and Talia Nyathi as pyromanic classmate Evie Spelk. Tracking Hatty’s progress in the hope of gaining the world’s magic and power is Canopus Sly. Regular readers will know that we really love the work of Jessica Johnson. She is a really talented actor who brings class to every role she plays and she is perfect as the power hungry Sly. Completing the main cast as the Sorcerer Hopkin Hopkins himself is Nick Figgis. The very beginning of the show talks about the legend of why Sly turned out the way they did. This short seen, which also involved ensemble cast members Maya Torres and Jordan Larkin was one in which the creative team set their stall out. Matthew Tuckey’s atmospheric sound design couples with Jai Marjaria’s lighting and smoke to illicit the first gasps from the young audience.
The music of the show deserves a special mention. Songs composed by Katie Doherty, also the musical director, would be at home in a hit West End musical. Delivered so well by the cast, the songs engaged the audience as much as the action did.
We sat in the main hall rather than on the side seats on the stage. I guess that the experience will be different from each angle. Amanda Mascarenhas set design then sits in the gap in between, thus effectively reducing the width of the stage and helping to stop the audience feeling like they are at a tennis match as the action swings from side to side. The set allowed the action to keep flowing from scene to scene. Amanda was also responsible for the contrasting costumes.
The art of storytelling is a hard yet important one. Laura Lindow’s script is one that both the children and adults could follow and enjoy. Director Maria Crocker has brought the show to life in a captivating way. It is no panto, but the younger members of the audience often reacted to the action and felt a part of the performance.
This is a special story for that special time of the year. The little magical illusions and tricks of the theatre trade make this so much better than a film or television performance. Northern Stage really has a show it can be proud of.
Review: Stephen Oliver
Photos: Pamela Raith Photography
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice runs from 3 December - 7 January and is recommended for ages 5+. Tickets start from £10, and there will be BSL, captioned, relaxed and audio described performances. Book online at www.northernstage.co.uk or call the box office on 0191 230 5151.