BBC Radio 4 Extra, 2 May 2011
A charming comic tale based on Goethe's original about an apprentice
(Zack Fox), who believes he can emulate the powers of his employer the Hexenmeister (Paul Rhys). He ends up investing the
cat Copernicus (Harry Towb) with anthropomorphic qualities and enlists the help of the Hexenmeister's daughter (Jenny Veale).
Inevitably the youngster's dabbling comes to a sad end, and he ends up flooding the Hexenmeister's shop. The Hexenmeister
has to intervene, but finds that the catastrophe has benefited him, as the boy has at last discovered the way to make a profit.
Marc Beeby's production fairly bristled with intertexts: apart from the obvious reference
to Dukas' famous musical piece, Copernicus the cat spoke with the kind of cheerful avuncularity reminiscent of Catweazle,
the old television wizard played by Geoffrey Bayldon. Rhys' wizard bore a strong vocal resemblance to David Kossoff, invoking
an entire tradition of eccentrics that Kossoff played on all media (remember his performance in the original radio version
of John Mortimer's The Dock Brief (1957), which has been regularly rebroadcast, and reviewed elsewhere on Radio
Some intertexts I believe were deliberately designed to place The Sorcerer's
Apprentice within the tradition of comic/magic tales for children. I vividly remember Pardon My Genie from my
own childhood, with the great Hugh Paddick in the leading role. While The Sorcerer's Apprentice did communicate a
moral lesson about the perils of dabbling in things one doesn't know much about (reminiscent of Faust), its primary
purpose was to entertain with a combination of excruciating puns and comic invocations. The apprentice frequently exclaimed
"Oh, galoshes!" or "Oh, bottom!" to signal his frustration.
I liked the production very much, even though it threw up some common German stereotypes:
French suggested they were fond of eating, spoke with funny accents reminiscent of 'Allo, 'Allo!, while their society
is strictly hierarchical: everyone knows their place.