Newton's Cauldron
  • By Tom King
  • |
  • 7th Aug 2014
  • |
  • ★★★★

Newton’s Cauldron is an unexpected gem, a brisk little piece which mixes storybook, history book and textbook deftly and amusingly. The story is that of Wendy Wiz, a failed witch whose one piece of successful magic is to prophesy the birth of Isaac Newton, a birth which also signals the death of magic and the dawn of the age of science. To Wendy, this seems like a mixed blessing but to her more accomplished sister Wombat, it’s a disaster and so the two of them embark on an escalating campaign to stop Newton by any means necessary. Unfortunately, destiny seems so implacably set that their every action just speeds Newton’s journey of discovery.

Cara Mahoney as Wendy is an incredibly engaging stage presence ably partnered by Emma Taylor as Wombat.

Cara Mahoney as Wendy is an incredibly engaging stage presence ably partnered by Emma Taylor as Wombat. Though these two performers represent the full extent of the cast (and pretty much the set too), this sparseness is never felt.

It’s listed under Theatre, but I’d also encourage parents to consider Newton’s Cauldron for their kids. The tone is perfect for the awkward 8-11 group who are old enough to feel patronised if talked down to but may still need to be entertained in order to keep their attention. Here, the action and humour is quick enough to keep the energy up and the subject matter of the play varied enough to offer tidbits on a range of different aspects of science, history and literature. The choice to set the play around Christmas is an odd one but this slightly jarring inclusion is more than balanced out by numerous clever details and side-jokes which I found very enjoyable.

There’s no denying that Newton’s Cauldron is a little rough around the edges, but it’s also a wonderfully imaginative piece of storytelling: clever without being smug, informative without being dry, sentimental without being saccharine.

Reviews by Tom King


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The Blurb

Christmas Day, 1642. The birth of a little boy called Isaac Newton heralds a new age of science. Two witches, Wendy and Wombat, foresee that this child also portends the death of magic. To keep their mystical way of living alive, the weird sisters plan weird ways to kill the future scientist. But with every attempt on Isaac’s life, Wendy and Wombat unwittingly shape some of the greatest scientific discoveries. A dark comedy about the battle of progress from award-winning playwright Tim Foley, ‘a talent to watch out for’ (