The Sorcerer, Milborne Port Opera

prompsorcerertmarkbignellA BIG wedding was arranged in Milborne Port this week, with the contractual exchanges performed outside the Guildhall and the reception in the grounds of Ven House.

But when the aristocratic guards officer of a groom decided to unleash his socialist ideas of equality on the love lives of the villagers, by means of a love potion, chaos ensued.

Linda Mumford’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Sorcerer has been cleverly updated to the late 1950s and relocated to Milborne Port itself. With a trio imported from Rud­di­gore, a couple of characters called in from The Zoo and stylish designs by Naomi Booth, this is a delight.

This is one of G and S’s lesser known operas, but still rejoices in a barmy plot, complicated lyrics and rhythmical and tuneful chorales that bring out the best in the remarkable Milborne Port Opera company.

Under the baton of MD Caroline D’Cruz, the 11-strong band drove along this hilarious story, based loosely on Donizett’s L’Elisir D’Amore.

Sir Marmaduke has long experienced a passion for Lady Annabella,  and she for him. But social niceties have kept either of them from declaring their love.

Now her daughter Aline and his son Alexis are getting married, and have no truck with restraint (this is nearly the 60s, remember). They want to share their joy. So Alexis engages a London Sorcerer, one John Wellington Wells, all the way from St Mary Axe (home of The Gherkin).

He conjures a potion which will make everyone fall asleep and, on waking, fall in love with the first person they see – those of the opposite sex and not already married, of course.

The potion works and some very unsuitable alliances are made. When the situation gets critical, poor old Mr Wells bears the consequences, irrespective of the contract terms.

The company has nurtured talents over the years, and many of the regulars appear in this show.

I can’t imagine an MPO show without Alison Ruddy, here the elegant but working class Mrs Partlet, or Sarah Bignell, whose Lady Sangazure almost steals every scene.

Richard Gaunt exposed a new, and very funny, comic side as the aged and deaf notary, with Andrew Armstrong as the lonely Rector.  Chris Bailward is an ideal Sir Marmaduke, with James Craw, another regular, as Alexis and Alison Stevens as Aline.

Among the “newer” member of the company are the spirited Jessie Stones, using her powerful voice and excellent comic timing to great effect, and Mark Blackham in the title role.

Mark is one of those performers whose personal magnetism colours and enlivens every role he plays, and his versatility means he is in great demand across the area. As John Wellington Wells he conveys brash assurance and a keen eye for the main financial chance, as well as a reticent conscience.

It’s another terrific show and it’s on in the village hall until Saturday. A few tickets remain.

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