unseen theatre company: reaper man

reaper man by the unseen theatre company
After seeing Pratchett Pieces Three by the Unseen Theatre Company during the Fringe I said that I'd have to keep my eye out for the next full length Discworld play that they did.

That turned out to be Reaper Man.

The story is typical Discworld fare... Death (Hugh O'Connor) is "fired" from his job by the Auditors of Reality and finds himself working on the elderly Miss Flitworth's (Pamela Munt) farm at harvest time.

At the same time, Windle Poons (Leighton James) a 130 year old wizard at Unseen University dies... but due to Death being unemployed, finds himself returning as a zombie.

In the original novel the "B Story" involving Poons is much more involved, but for the play that's simplified down to mostly reinforce the main Death story.

The script itself contains all the genuine laughs of Pratchett's work, aided by some very strong performances from the small yet versatile cast.

O'Connor makes for a brilliant Death... seeing him in a secondary role as one of Poons' fellow wizards you would never guess that he also plays the anthropomorphic personification of Death (I love saying that)... his has the perfect monotone yet booming voice for the character, as well as great comic timing. But there was one moment when he's standing right at the front row where looking up into his blank skull mask was genuinely intimidating.

James does well in a predominately comical role as Poons, particularly with the undead zombie shambling of an undead wizard. And the scene between Poons and Mrs Cake (Michelle Whichello), as a psychic who's precognition reaches about ten seconds into the future are genuinely hilarious.

Other standouts include some of the actors in the same roles as Pratchett Pieces Three, Samm Blackmore as the dryly humorous Footnote (aka the narrator) and Paul Messenger who has found his groove in the role of wizard Archchancellor Ridcully.

Messenger, James and Michael Coumi are also great in their brief appearances as the three Auditors... they've clearly been inspired by the vocal performances of the Auditors in the Hogfather miniseries, which just felt right.

In fairly minor roles both David Dyte as Modo the dwarf gardener of Unseen University (as well as a couple of other roles) and Danniel McInnes as both the Dean of the University and Lupine (a "reverse" werewolf) are worth watching... particularly McInnes' physicality as Lupine even if the character only has a single scene.

As always the black walls of the Bakehouse Theatre are easily turned into any space required, but the idea of projecting a still image of a scene onto the back wall worked brilliantly, especially for the opening "Auditors in Space" sequence as well easily defining other interior locations.

If there are any criticisms beyond the occasional slightly clunky line delivery, it would be the movement of items by the stagehands between scenes. Usually this was covered by Blackmore's Footnote speeches, but there were occasions where it was a little distracting.

All in all though it was a worthy adaptation and an enjoyable night of theatre.

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