Paradise in Augustines
15 – Aug, not 21
It’s hard to reduce one of Terry Pratchett’s complex novels into an intelligible stage work, even without the challenge of portraying Death who is a skeleton in a black robe, with piercing electric blue eyeballs and SPEAKS IN CAPITALS… Duck in a Hat Theatre tried hard, but it really isn’t the same.
Mort is pretty hopeless at everything, so his desperate father takes him to the hiring fair, hoping he will become apprenticed to someone else and thus no longer be his problem. As midnight strikes, Mort is still standing hopefully in the market square when a tall dark stranger comes by on his white horse – and Mort becomes Death’s apprentice. When he is taken to Death’s house, he is surprised to meet Death’s servant Albert and even more surprised to meet Death’s daughter, Ysabell. The two instantly dislike each other, and we all know how that’s going to turn out… Mort is continually trying to assert his identity, to challenge being referred to as ‘Boy’: when he is sent off to do The Duty in Death’s place he asserts himself to the point of preventing the assassination of the young princess Keli. This leads to a serious distortion of reality and…
The plot is complex, and its resolution equally so – I’m not sure that this production made it very clear. There were some good scenes, especially Mort and Ysabell’s quarrel and Death’s attempts to work out what human emotions, especially happiness, are: but the many lengthy blacked-out scene changes held up the action.
Mort was excellent: reminiscent of Anton Yelchin’s Tchekov in Star Trek prequels, his wide-eyed innocence and simplicity of thought could have been confused with simple-mindedness, but which is shown to be otherwise. Ysabell was perhaps not flouncy and weepy enough; Keli grew in haughtiness as her reign progressed and got a good frock for her almost-coronation. I was really challenged by the buxom, female, COMPETENT wizard Igneous Cutwell. Death himself excellently done, voice, blue eyes, piercing gaze and all.
There were many laughs from audience: after all, the original script was written by a master. Voiceover filled in gaps in the narrative: but this work was not a patch on the original. I also problems with general youthfulness of cast, especially the youthfulness of the 2,000-year-old Alberto Malich, who seemed way too nice and helpful – he’s a grumpy old git in the original – though I was impressed by his hair when he let it down.
There was no programme or flyer to be found, so no indication who created this work: it was a good amateur effort but not a patch on the book! Maybe people new to Terry might be inspired to give the book a go: purists and enthusiasts might be charitable, or might feel disappointed at all the wonderful bits that had to be omittedor were beyond the scope of a low-budget Fringe show. Despite all this, the applause was hearty and the audience left contented.