Monstrous Productions, a volunteer-led theatre group, opened their latest production last night — Mort, based on the Terry Pratchett book of the same name. The group perform adaptations of Pratchett’s work and as the author suffers from Alzheimer’s, all profits go to Alzheimer’s Research UK. Mort is Monstrous Productions’ second play, their first being Carpe Jugulum last year which raised over £3,000 for the charity.
The story begins with our introduction to the aptly-named Mort (Craig Harper) as he goes to a job fair to look for an apprenticeship, but doesn’t find anything. At the stroke of midnight, Death (Matthew Churchill) appears and takes Mort as an apprentice to help usher the souls of the dead, whilst Death tries to figure out what the human concept of ‘fun’ means. Things take a dramatic turn, however, when Mort, being the compassionate human he is, stops the murder of Princess Keli and accidentally creates an alternate reality.
Death is pretty scary when he first makes his entrance — tall, skeletal and of course, wearing a black cloak and carrying a scythe — but he reveals his softer side throughout the play as he talks about his love of cats and his horse named Binky. Matthew Churchill strikes the balance perfectly between terrifying and hilarious, and Craig Harper is very believable as Mort, especially excelling in his scenes with Laura Kendrick who plays Ysabell, Death’s adopted daughter.
A lot of the cast take on multiple roles, becoming characters or stagehands when required, which really demonstrates the amount of dedication and love they have for this play. Even though there was no scenery and very few props, the skill of the cast, use of minimal lighting and fantastic makeup and costumes was very effective. I didn’t feel there was anything missing; the story spoke for itself. I also felt the venue was perfect for this type of production. It’s relatively small and intimate, with central staging and seating on three sides.
There is something for everyone in this play, with its hilarious one-liners, excellent comic timing from the entire cast, loyalty to the original book, and the interesting use of audience participation. Even if you have never read any of Pratchett’s books, you should definitely see Mort as it’s a great introduction to the Discworld series. It’s charming and morbidly funny — if you want to see Death do the conga then this play is for you!
Monstrous Productions are currently preparing for their next performance in November this year. Although I’m not sure whether I can reveal title yet, I can reveal that they are currently looking for performers and crew, and you may not necessarily need any experience. For more details email firstname.lastname@example.org, follow them on Twitter @monstrousptc or find them on Facebook.
Mort is playing in The Gate Arts Centre, Keppoch Street, Roath from 29th January to 1st February. Tickets are selling out very quickly, so get yours early to avoid disappointment. Visit monstrousptc.com for more details and to buy tickets.