unseen theatre company: the wee free men

unseen theatre company: the wee free men
Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels can sometimes appear be fairly easy to turn into a stage production, but at other times, they seem like they'd be next to impossible.

The latest production from the Unseen Theatre Company, The Wee Free Men (the first of the Tiffany Aching novels) is definitely one of the latter... if only because a large number of the main characters are six inch tall, predominately blue/tattooed little redheaded men/pictsies. Plus another character is a talking toad.

And on top of that, there's a trip to Fairyland and various supernatural beasties.

For the most part, the Wee Free Men or Nac Mac Feegle are dealt with by making them full sized humans, with only a single, blink and you'll miss it, line referencing the fact that they're supposed to be six inches tall.

They're played by Harold Roberts as Rob Anybody, Dalestair Kidd as Daft Wullie, Natalie Hugh as (deep breath) "No' as Big as Medium Sized Jock But Bigger Than Wee Jock Jock" and David Dyte as William.

Of the four, Kidd is the by far the most charismatic... in the books Daft Wullie is just, well, daft, but Kidd manages to make him just this side of insane every time she's on stage and she completely and totally stole just about every scene she was in... to the point where you're supposed to be watching the characters talking on stage left, but your eyes just find themselves creeping over to watch her wordless antics on stage right. More than once.

The blue skin/woad/tattoos of the Feegles is perhaps best described as... inconsistent. Some of the actors seemed to have applied a perfect, Smurf blue coat to their arms and faces, others it seemed the makeup just didn't like them. And there were more than a few times were the blue just didn't go far enough and was a little distracting. Minor quibbles to be honest, but still.

Toad is handled much the same way that they dealt with the Great God Om in last year's Small Gods... with an appropriately sized prop substitute and an actor, in this case Hugh O'Connor (who usually goes unseen but very much heard as Death) in a yellow suit and suitable toad facepaint. I kind of wish they'd dealt with him a little more like they had with Om, where the other actors all address the prop not the person, but O'Connor is fantastic, very dry and sarcastic and with pretty much all the best lines.

Josephine Giorgio plays the lead character of Tiffany Aching, and does a fantastic job in her first Unseen Theatre production. She manages to embody all of Tiffany's determination, stubbornness and anger quite well... and I'd be intrigued to see her take on the role of Death's granddaughter Susan at some point, as I think she'd do it well.

As both director and adaptor, Pamela Munt has managed to make one of the more difficult to stage Discworld stories work pretty well for the stage, although much of Tiffany's inner monologue (which, to be honest is most of my favourite stuff about the Aching books) and some of the more fantastical parts had to go.

Whether or not they can manage to do all five of the Aching books or not, I don't know... the second one is mostly predicated on Tiffany's inner monologue, so that could be difficult, but it'd be nice to see them try.

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