St Andrews University’s Gilbert and Sullivan Society is in sparkling form with their presentation of this little known show.
G&S early history, performed by a fine company with a first-class male lead
The Sorcerer tells the story of Alexis, a young man frustrated at the social inequality he sees in the village around him and its impact on romantic liaison. Alexis recruits a Sorcerer to carry out incantations, enchanting the various residents to fall more indiscriminately in love, risking as he does so his own relationship with fiancée Aline. As the villagers succumb, Alexis starts to have second thoughts but the price extracted from him for resolution is dear indeed.
Gilbert & Sullivan are not well known for this piece, and few of its songs would make any compilation of their work. The echoes of their later, more famous works, however, can be heard both in the general musical structure and in specific lines. For example, the Vicar says “I shall live and die a bachelor”, where a later character will offer to live and die a Pirate King. And how very G&S wittily to rhyme liquor with vicar. For any aficionado of the two Victorian maestros, this is compelling history.
The Sorcerer is performed with unusual maturity and sophistication by a strong company of 17 excellent voices. All sing without projection through mics (wonderful for the purist) and dressed in smart costume. The set is extremely simple but has what it needs to support the storytelling. Julia Hallin (Aline) displays proficient vocals, while bowler-hatted James Forshaw, looking like something out of a Tintin cartoon, is fun and likeable as the Father. Peter Black makes for a wonderfully eccentric Sorcerer, looking something like a cross between a belly dancer and an Australian Test batsman. I would like to see a bit more magic happening around him with lights and staging during the moments of incantation, but his ghoulish glee throughout the scene is fun and true to the G&S style.
What makes this something rather special, however, is the remarkable ability of Sally’s Boy Sebastian Roberts as the hero Alexis. Roberts, a QEGS Blackburn lad, has sung as a chorister with Blackburn Cathedral Choir and the Royal Northern Chamber of Music, and it shows in his rich and well trained baritone voice. And just when you think he is a one-trick pony, Roberts reveals a commanding comic presence with the text as well, his timing impeccable and his judgement razor sharp. Let us hope that he returns next year with a one-man concert, and I will be in the queue for tickets.
Come and see The Sorcerer. It might not be one of the famous ones but this is G&S early history, performed by a fine company with a first-class male lead.