Take one much-loved folk tale (popularised by a Goethe poem and Disney’s 1940 classic animated film Fantasia), add a delightfully inventive script, a sprinkling of catchy songs and a top-notch cast, and, it transpires, you have the formula for a truly enchanting piece of Christmas theatre. For such is this superb staging of Laura Lindow’s fabulous, Geordie retelling of the story of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
This production has risen, very much like the titular heroine herself, from adversity. Curtailed by Covid infection within the company last year, Northern Stage decided that the show was simply too good not to revive for this festive season.
Thank goodness the Tyneside company has done so. This enhanced version of Lindow’s original play is as good a piece of family theatre as you are likely to see anywhere in the UK this Christmas.
From very early in the proceedings – when we are given a wonderfully funny introduction to our orphaned protagonist Hatty Rabbit (played by the endearing and dynamic Beth Crame) – it is clear that we are in for a classy, self-assured production. That Hatty has been raised by her hilariously ghastly, Roald Dahl-style aunt (the avaricious narcissist Primula Fudge, played with a fabulous lack of restraint by Heather Dutton) only deepens our sympathy with the girl who, unbeknownst to herself, has “magic in her bones”.
Packed off to Bish Bash Bosh (the “school for challenging children”), Hatty is soon summoned by magical missive to the underground lair of the good sorcerer Hopkin Hopkins (the deliciously eccentric Nick Figgis). The trouble is, this means she is also, inevitably, being pursued by the wicked sorcerer Canopus Sly (portrayed with marvellous verve, style and comic sarcasm by Jessica Johnson).
Hatty’s adventure plays out – in director Maria Crocker’s utterly compelling production – with tremendous pace, humour and inventiveness. The show also boasts great musicality, thanks to composer Katie Doherty’s memorable song-and-dance numbers, and, of course, a delightful outing for French composer Paul Dukas’s most famous piece (namely, his 1897 rendering of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice).
The design, from Amanda Mascarenhas’s sumptuous, versatile set (which evokes old Newcastle and Hopkins’s laboratory with equal brilliance) to Georgia Hill’s fabulous animal puppets, also keeps its part of the bargain. This is a gorgeously complete piece of Christmas theatre that is bound to have theatre-goers of all ages under its spell.
Until Jan 7. Tickets: 0191 230 5151; northernstage.co.uk