Work experience is a frightening prospect, as reluctant apprentice Mort quickly discovers when he stares Death in the face in this lovingly warm take on Sir Terry Pratchett’s satirical novel by Cardiff based theatre company Monstrous Productions.
Following on from Monster Productions’ success with Carpe Jugulum last June, Mort charts adventures of hapless farm-boy Mortimer (played by Craig Harper) as he’s apprenticed to the Grim Reaper.
Thrust into the job Mort meets a cast of eccentric characters including kings, wizards and a very surly Igor.
It’s a daunting prospect for any theatre company. Pratchett’s vibrant characters and elaborate set pieces are challenging to bring to life, but director Amy Davies has chosen a strong cast.
Building on the solid stage adaption by Stephen Briggs, Pratchett’s witty one-liners pepper the script, but the cast weren’t above a little improvisation of their own.
In particular Philip Jones as market vendor Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler and Igor, Cutwell’s lisping servant provide welcome comic relief.
But Matthew Churchill’s stately portrayal of Death steals the show with deadpan deliveries and booming voice playing off well against Harper’s bumbling Mort.
Churchill’s performance as Death is so much larger than life that when he decides to take a day off, hilarity ensures.
Put it this way-it isn’t often you see a man in a skeleton suit performing the conga.
Mort is typical of the company’s minimalist approach to theater, relying on strong performances from their small but flexible cast in place of elaborate sets or expensive costumes.
It’s a production in aid of a good cause. Last year Monster Productions theater company raised over £3000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK, of which Sir Pratchett is a patron.
This year the company will donate the revenue from ticket sales to the charity after its production costs have been paid.
A definite crowd-pleaser and a non-profit production besides, Mort is a wonderful example of a cast that can back up their enthusiasm with solid performances and a wicked sense of humor.
Mort is showing at the Gate Arts Centre, Roath until Saturday February 1. Tickets can be bought on the door or online at http://7889269b08cd.fikket.com/.