Imogen Usherwood is entertained by Ooook Productions’ Terry Pratchett comedy, ‘Mort’.
‘You’re dead – it could be fatal.’
Terry Pratchett’s Mort is a novel with a cult following, crammed with quirky characters with unpronounceable names, acute cynicism and lots of casual references to Death (both the concept and the character). Ooook! Productions’ stage adaption brings to life the bizarre workings of this text with enthusiasm and skill. Alice Bridge and Sophie Boddington’s production offers deadpan humour, absurd scenarios and a few questionable accents, keeping the audience entertained in a lively – albeit occasionally confusing – performance of this much-loved fantasy novel.
It is very much a play of cameos; between them, the nineteen-strong cast present an array of minor characters whose absurdities bounce off the protagonists with real energy. Matt Redmond shines as the Doorknocker (and not just because his face was painted gold), and carried his brilliant comic timing into his second role as the excitable Rincewind. Ed Cook as the bumbling High Priest injected life into the later scenes, and Keir Mulcahey as the Old Abbot made the most of his hilarious lines about reincarnation. Harry Twining as the King brought elements of dark humour in his conversation with Death, while Niamh Hanns played a prostitute flirting with the Grim Reaper himself, getting some of the biggest laughs of the night.
It would be a disservice not to mention that classic character of any Pratchett novel – Death himself, played by John Duffett; he announced such one-liners as ‘Let’s mingle!’ and ‘Have a chip!’ in the doom-laden voice of the Grim Reaper to great acclaim. His every entrance, clad head to toe in black with a huge hood obscuring his face, was met with laughter and it is a testament to his vocal talent that his character was easily conveyed without ever showing his face. Alistair Hall carried the plot as the eponymous Mort; he came across as a little uncomfortable at times but this seemed to suit the character. He portrayed Mort’s gradual transformation into Death with conviction, and interacted well with Ruth Louis, who made for a gutsy, self-assured and capable Ysabell, Death’s daughter; her comic timing and stage presence was a credit to the show. Abbie Priestley was a neat contrast as the Princess Keli, with the air of a spoilt child, a successful foil to Imogen Eddleston as the bumbling wizard Cutwell. Kyle Kirkpatrick also stood out as Albert, from his comedic first entrance to his slightly more sinister nature in the second half of the play.
Any script that calls for its characters to freeze time, summon Death and cross into the afterlife (often all within a short space of time) has to take some liberties with stagecraft; credit should go to the tech team for their use of lighting and sound during the numerous deaths that took place onstage. Some of the scenes were a little chaotic at times, and others were hilarious for their sheer ridiculousness – six men running onstage summoning Death by chanting at high speed is not something I’ll forget in a hurry – but this all added to the comedic nature of the performance. A few first night mishaps did not go unnoticed, but the actors pushed on in good faith and the audience only laughed more when someone fell over or had to move into the spotlight.
Overall, Mort is an entertaining, hilarious evening, clearly put together as an extreme labour of love from a hugely talented and dedicated cast and crew. Towards the end the plot is a little difficult to follow, but it hardly mattered as the audience were enjoying themselves as much as the cast. This is a dead funny show full of ridiculous costumes, absurdist humour and immense enthusiasm.
Mort will be playing in Durham School at 7:30pm on Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd February.
Photographs: Matthew Redmond.