unseen theatre company: small gods

I won't lie, Small Gods is the Terry Pratchett Discworld novels I have the most... complicated, I guess, relationship with. Most of this stems from the fact that this is Terry's satire on religion, and I find myself annoyed by certain characters and frustrated by the religious dogma, even while it's been made fun of.

It's also a difficult novel to turn into a two hour play, due partly to the complexity of the story, but mostly because of the fact that one of the characters is the Great God Om, currently manifesting in the body of a very small tortoise.

The Unseen Theatre Company get around this with some creative casting in the form of Alycia Rabig and what appears to be a tortoise shaped garden ornament. Rabig plays Om with all the frustration and annoyance you would expect from a deity reduced to just the one follower, and is present through all the scenes involving Om/the tortoise, but the other actors only ever address the tortoise.

And it's works very well, also in part due to the fantastic Timothy Tedmanson as Novice Brutha, who's a little bit simple, remembers everything and is the only person who can hear Om. Tedmanson is brilliant in the role plus the fact that he's seventeen helps with the character's sense of innocence and naivety and he makes Brutha a delight to watch.

I was a little surprised that the cast were pronouncing Brutha's name as "Brootha", when I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be a homophone for "brother"... especially as in later novels characters use his name in prayers/curses as "Oh, Brutha"... like the Discworld country of Djelibeybi is actually pronounced "jellybaby".

The villain of the piece, Deacon Vorbis, is played with a wonderful Machiavellian quality by (the brilliantly named but difficult to say... and fitting as he may have been named after a Pope) Adeodatus McCormack. From the moment the audience enter the theatre and he's already on stage, peering down his nose at everyone with withering disdain is just perfect for the character.

I'd also love to see McCormack take on the role of another Discworld character, Vetinari, Patrician of Ankh-Morpork... he's perfectly built for the role, both physically as well as a decidedly commanding/intimidating presence.

It would also be interesting to see what else David Haller is capable of, he takes on a number of small roles here, but his energy and enthusiasm are fantastic, especially as Urn.

As always the props and scenery are functional and minimal, although good use is made of a throne on wheels throughout the play. And the projected backgrounds are better than in previous Unseen plays (although the light could still do with being a little brighter... and the battle background was decidedly anachronistic). The costumes are simple, mostly robes and togas, although the Monty Python Spanish Inquisition costumes for Vorbis and the other members of the Quisition of Omnia give exactly the right feels... but Om's Grecian inspired dress is quite lovely.

Overall though this was an enjoyable trip to the Discworld featuring performers I hope return again.

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