The Sorcerer’s Apprentice at Southwark Playhouse Online
How a show can claim to be inspired directly by Goethe’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice when it’s actually about a magician’s daughter who only briefly loses control of her magic, which in the end doesn’t have any negative consequences, is very curious indeed. Gone is the risk of following in Icarus’s footsteps; gone the need to study hard before being able to master a craft – both of which are even present in the Disney version. Luckily, here the production is so good that it actually makes the show quite enjoyable. The writing and the message may be all over the place, but good music and a magical scenery really make it fun to watch.
The unexpected plot involves an evil corporation zapping the power from the aurora borealis for profit, resulting in its magic growing weaker and weaker until it fades completely – yes, it’s a super-subtle analogy for climate change. The magician (David Thaxton), who has a special connection with nature, and his rebellious daughter (Mary Moore) join forces to stop the evildoer’s work. All comes to a happy conclusion when the daughter learns she can solve the issues by just “being herself” and making the evil owner of the corporation sign a contract not to exploit the Northern Lights anymore.
Whatever its narrative weaknesses, it needs to be emphasised that, from a production standpoint, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is actually pretty darn good. The cast – especially Moore and Thaxton, but also Dawn Hope as the villain’s mother – are all spectacular, with strong voices and wonderful impersonations of otherwise rather stereotypical characters. Some of Ben Morales Frost’s music is earworm-inducing, and the directing by Charlotte Westenra is almost flawless, including the sets by Anna Kelsey, which are magical in a fashion perfectly in tune with the source material.
In some ways, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice reflects everything wrong with the contemporary musical scene, compromising on decent, unique writing for the sake of echoing what everyone else is saying. But the prose is good enough – certainly genuinely funny at times – and with production that catapults the overall quality towards the stars, it ends up being surprisingly engaging. So it does deserve a cautious recommendation, even if it feels more like a cheap knockoff than a worthy take on Goethe’s poem like the adaptation in Fantasia.
Photo: Geraint Lewis
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is available to livestream via Stream.Theatre from 26th February until 14th March 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for the production here: