In development since 2017, Rob Drummond’s adaptation of this little-known Roald Dahl story was a work of integrated live magic and storytelling. It is the story of Henry Sugar, a classic example of the idle rich who acquires the ability to see through playing cards due to practising yogic powers. Framing the story with Mary, a contemporary 14 year old who uses the yogic powers to become a successful influencer, the piece reached its target family audience whilst staying true to Dahl’s original story, and featuring a magic levitation never before seen onstage. An outstanding cast led by David Rankine as Henry and Eve Buglass as Mary performed within a stunning design by Becky Minto (set and costume) Fergus Dunnet (live effects) Simon Wilkinson (lighting) and Lewis den Hertog (video design). It was presented in co-production with Helen Milne Productions, Perth Theatre and the Roald Dahl Story Company and toured to Perth, Stirling and Inverness. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar was nominated for three awards in the Critics Awards For Theatre in Scotland (CATS): best design, best production for children and young people and best technical presentation.
Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman
What a glorious tale for our times is Rob Drummond’s brilliant touring version of Roald Dahl’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar...the show fits the intimate atmosphere of Perth Theatre like a glove, with Becky Minto’s gorgeous design, all gold pillars and red velvet drapes, taking up and intensifying the theme. Drummond’s version, magnificently directed by Ben Harrison, also adds a third layer of narrative, featuring a young 21st century would-be “influencer” called Mary, a restless teen in search of online subscribers, who hears Henry’s story and becomes profoundly changed by it.
Eve Buglass is superb as Mary, lost, funny and wise as only teenagers can be. Johndeep More, Rosalind Sydney and David Rankine turn in flawless performances as Khan, Dr Cartwright and Sugar, with strong support from Dave Fishley as Henry’s friend Michael; and the show captures the moment we live in with an exhilarating accuracy, as we stand between a world where we abuse our gifts in the pursuit of wealth that turns to ashes – or a future in which we learn from the meditative wisdom of the ages how to be in the joy of the moment, and to want less.
Allan Radcliffe, The Times
Drummond and the director Ben Harrison succeed in moving seamlessly between the different portions of this interpolated narrative, the transitions facilitated by Becky Minto’s deceptively simple set of coloured drapes, and quirky music by Scott Twynholm, the sound designer. In a show that mixes drama with compelling visuals, including animation and live magic, the production never feels overstuffed. The feats of illusion, created for the show by Fergus Dunnet, range from mind-reading to close-hand card tricks and levitation. They are always impressive... demonstrated with panache by the cast.
Claire Brennan, The Observer
not only must Ben Harrison and his talented company transport their audience to an Indian jungle, London casinos, the world of social media etc, they must – and do – present seemingly impossible feats of magic. It builds a dramatic impetus necessary to the stage action (further enlivened by wittily managed direct interactions with the audience... As to feats described in the story – of levitation, mind-reading, seeing through solid objects – the combined talents of the cast with Fergus Dunnet (illusions), Simon Wilkinson (lighting), Scott Twynholm (sound and music) and Lewis den Hertog (projections) work magic...seeing is believing.
Mark Brown, The National
A considerable success...the show draws upon an extraordinary pool of talent. Directed by award-winning theatre maker Ben Harrison, the piece boasts not only Drummond's very clever and engaging script, but fabulously slick design by Becky Minto, and jaw-dropping illusions by Fergus Dunnet (to say nothing of the excellent music and sound, lighting and video projections)...this impressively complete production...Drummond's play reflects beautifully the writer's established skill in relating to teenagers...a series of genuinely impressive card tricks and other illusions that require some quick-witted and hilarious ad-libbing on the part of David Rankine (outstanding in the role of Sugar) in particular. When the show isn't giving illusionist Derren Brown a run for his money, it's bowling along nicely as a piece of theatrical storytelling...a universally excellent cast...and the wonderfully coherent vision of director Harrison.
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