Sunday, October 16, 2011

Maskerade Review

Terry Pratchett’s Maskerade adapted for the stage by Steve Briggs
Laughing Monkey
Norwich Puppet Theatre

Maskerade is a Discworld story set firmly within the Witch Cycle. It centres around Agnes Nitt (who wants to be Perdita X), a girl who has it in her to become a witch but intends to leave it all behind to be on the stage. Of course with her no-nonsense core and her fundamental common sense she fits in really well into the exaggerated hysteria of the Opera House. Fortunately for Agnes she can sing, then again unfortunately for Agnes her new friend Christine has the body that would sell a thousand tickets. With an increasingly murderous Opera Ghost at large and unwelcome faces far from home with the arrival of Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax Agnes soon finds herself wound up in a somewhat predicable tangle.   

Laughing Monkey produced a show that fitted in very well with the gorgeous space that is the Norwich puppet theatre. They used the trapdoor, the flies, the stairs through the audience and the depth of the stage really well. Also as befits Discworld there was clearly a decision early in production to not focus on obsessively on production values and instead bring forth the spirit of fun that infiltrates even the darkest moments of the Discworld books. As such there was a delightful theatrical awareness to the piece which worked especially well considering the subject matter.

There was as well great commitment by the actors in this production, to both the text and their characters. There was hilarious physical comedy; amusing accents; impossibly straight faces and generally a tight focus and belief in who they were portraying. Those who have dabbled in this blog before might know that I love Terry Prachett in the way one can when it was a refuge (read escape) from a certain thesis last year. Discworld is very important to me and I have a strong sense of what it is. You might be relieved to hear that Maskerade was fabulous without (obviously) corresponding to this. Casing point was Nanny Ogg who played by Paul Allum was straight out of the pantomime tradition. It’s safe to say that this Nanny was not my Nanny and yet she worked all the same and in true Ogg style delivered some of the best laughs of the play.

So congratulations to the cast and crew, especially those who crossed over in both performing and production roles. Paul Allum, Liam Pudwell and Carol Rowell you are clearly a great team. I am looking forward to revisiting the Discworld in the capable hands of Laughing Monkey soon because apart from anything else you’ve got to love a production that has an acknowledgment in the credits for the person who looks after the pointy hats!

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