fringe: unseen theatre company's pratchett pieces three

unseen theatre presents pratchett pieces threeThis is the first time I've seen anything put on by the Unseen Theatre Company, who specialise in Discworld plays by one of my favourite authors, Terry Pratchett.

I've seen their work advertised before (and plastering almost every available surface in the Bakehouse Theatre, which seems to be their usual home), but never gotten around to seeing anything.

And I don't mean this in a bad way, but it was about what I've come to expect from amateur theatre. The costumes are always a little questionable, something always goes wrong but everybody is incredibly enthusiastic.

Fortunately enthusiasm does count for a lot and often carry across some of the bumpier elements.

As the name suggests, it's not one full length play, but five separate plays that take anywhere from about five to 45 minutes (the "Three" in the title comes from the fact that this is the third one of these "Pieces" plays they've done).

Of the five, I think the second one, The Trial, starring Discworld's witches was probably the best (although I do confess that the witches are my favourite Discworld characters, and of them, Esme "Granny" Weatherwax is my absolute favourite... with the anthropomorphic personification of Death coming in a close second).

Pamela Munt (who also directed and adapted the original stories) does excellent work as Esme... full of fire and pride, if a little sharper than the Granny I have in my imagination.

However, it's Michelle Wichelo as Nanny Ogg who seems to steal just about every scene she's in effortlessly. True, she gets all the funny lines, but she just seemed to have setttled into Nanny's skin like a worn old jacket.

The other standout, not only during the witches play, but in all of her small roles throughout the play, was Kate Hall. She's mesmerizing as witch Mistress Shimmer even though her part is only a handful of lines... and she's hysterically funny as the monotone "Research Officer" during the Hollywood Chickens section.

Samm Blackmore as the Footnote (ie the narrator) and James Loader (in a variety of roles... including unintentional eyecandy) also do excellent jobs.

The other play that I though worked most effectively was the second to last piece, Turntables of the Night, where Death (played by Hugh O'Connor) stalks a seventies disco for the ultimate record collector (played by James Loader... I think). Yes, it was a little chaotic and some of the staging wasn't the best... but overall it worked quite well.

The pieces that I don't think worked as well were the opener, Death And What Comes Next, and Hollywood Chickens.

Both pieces probably work better on the printed page than as a play, although there are some very good moments in Hollywood Chickens... I just felt like it lost a few of the subtleties of the story, as well as feeling a little bogged down towards the end section.

Rounding out the five plays was A Collegiate Casting Out of Devilish Devices... a chance for the men of Unseen Theatre to have their moment in the sun as the wizards of the Unseen University in the same way the women did with the witches.

Which essentially involves a lot of overstuffed armchairs, pointy hats and fake beards.

But even with the occasional issue (at one point during the witches section I think two market stalls are set out incorrectly... unless it's on purpose... but I don't think it was), mostly with some of the staging (things happening way too far off to the side), it's an entertaining and enjoyable production with a lot of laughs and I think that I'll have to keep my eye out for when they next do a full length Discworld piece.

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