📸 Pamala Raith
Magic lives inside of us, ready to change the world if only we would believe. Northern Stage's Christmas 2020 offering, The Sourcer's Apprentice, looks to the traditions of ancient tales and the elegantly chosen words of writer Laura Lindow to give us what we seek when things are not as settled as we hoped: comfort and joy. The tale of young Hatty Rabbit surrounds itself in its people, its layers of characters, as the narrative unfurls, set in 'the most magical land of all', Newcastle upon Tyne.
A caped and stormy beginning bolted from the depths, where any sense of what is possible was zapped into impossible. Its haunting chants painted a velvety Nightmare Before Christmas hue as Maria Crocker's direction left no square inch of the stage unexplored from this point onwards.
From a glimpse of Alice Blundell's tenderly performed Mam, the 13th child born on December 25th - portrayed genuinely by Beth Crame's Hatty, never twee - stored a force waiting to be tapped into, restoring magic to the world, if it doesn't fall into the wrong hands, that is.
And those wrong, spoon playing hands that live for destruction would be those of Canopus Sly: an undercurrent of evil springing up to surprise the audience from all inky corners of the theatre, Jessica Johnson absorbs traits of Aunt Polly and Cruella, clothed up in androgynous sleekness.
Another baddie we meet along the way after our protagonist is sadly orphaned comes in the shape of delusional Aunt Primula Fudge against her pink Flock slither of fitting set. Heather Dutton's depiction would make Roald Dahl proud and bestows a chance to hear some cheeky lyricism from composer and musical director Katie Doherty, drawing on the rhythms of Tim Minchin's Matilda speckled with her hallmarked Folky compositions.
No weak links to be sniffed at, each cast member feeds from each other's craft: friendship blossoms between the innocence of Talia Nyathi's Evie Spelk, puppet Rats controlled by Patrick Munday and his well-received ballad, and Hatty, which ignites rebellion in Doherty's showstopping anthem brimming with attitude, Challenging Children.
All paths lead to Hatty's encounter with sorcerer Hopkin Hopkins, comically executed by Nick Figgis with just the right hint of bizarreness, and located in his burrow of tricks is where we discover first-class illumination from light designer Jan Morjaria. Illusions of potions in sublime colours, including a most gorgeous lime green, linger in the air and radiate out, draped over the shelves, bottles of the unknown and main counter of the set.
After a stop off at our old pal, the Granger Market, the play and our evening out draws to a close, and it's time to heed little Miss Rabbit's words. She was destined to be a 'somebody', but you see, she always was a 'somebody'. Each and every one of us is. And that is the message that the young faces and old in the audience will take home from Northern Stage for their festivities, New Year and beyond.
Article by Beverley Knigh