Tuesday 26th February to Saturday 2nd March 2002
Directed by Mark Wakeman
Something is rotten and really quite stinks in the Kingdom of Lancre. The King is dead, Long Live the King! Well actually no, because the New King, the evil Duke Felmet, murdered the previous King and will stop at nothing until the whole Kingdom is under his iron hand. The only person who could take the throne would be the missing infant Prince. Hunted by the Duke's men the baby finds safety under the protection of three local witches, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick. The witches have a rule never to interfere but with the life of a child at stake and the fate of the Kingdom at hand, Granny has a saying about rules, if you're going to break them "Break them good and hard!"
Best-selling novelist Terry Pratchett's most famous characters are brought to life by the Bench Theatre in this hilarious fast paced adventure.
'Wyrd Sisters' is Terry Pratchett's sixth Discworld novel, published in 1988, and re-introduces Granny Weatherwax of 'Equal Rites'. Along with Granny Weatherwax, Wyrd Sisters features witch, Nanny Ogg, matriarch of a large tribe of Oggs, who owns the most evil cat in the world, (Greebo); and Magrat Garlick, the junior witch, who firmly believes in occult jewellery, covens and bubbling cauldrons, much to the annoyance of Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg.
King Verence I of Lancre is murdered by his cousin, Duke Felmet, after his ambitious wife persuades him to do so. The King's crown and child are given by an escaping servant to the three witches. The witches hand the child to a troupe of travelling actors, and hide the crown in the props-box. They acknowledge that destiny will eventually take its course and that the child, Tomjon, will grow up to defeat Duke Felmet and take his rightful place as king.
However, the kingdom is angry about the way the new King is mistreating the land and his subjects. The witches realise that it will be at least 15 years until Tomjon is able to return and save the kingdom, but by then irreparable damage will have been done. Granny Weatherwax, with help from the other two witches, manages to cast a spell over the entire kingdom to freeze it in time for 15 years. Meanwhile, the Duke has decided to have a play written and performed that portrays him in a favourable light and the witches in a negative light. He thinks this will cause the witches to lose their power, and the people will like him. He sends the court Fool to Ankh-Morpork to recruit the same acting company that Tomjon was given to, which now resides in the Dysk Theatre on the river Ankh.
The company make their way to Lancre, and perform the play for the King as asked. However, Hwel, the playwright, maintains that there is something wrong with the plot of the play, something that just doesn't feel right. The witches cast a spell in the middle of the play that causes the actors to portray the killing of the king truthfully, and the audience sees that the Duke and Duchess are guilty of Killing Verence I. Felmet finally succumbs to insanity and stabs several people with a retracting/fake dagger, before tripping and falling to his death in the Lancre Gorge. The Duchess is imprisoned but manages to escape, only to be killed by a collection of various forest animals who want revenge for the poor treatment of the land.
Granny Weatherwax explains that Tomjon is the rightful king, and he is due to be crowned. However, Tomjon does not want to be king; he is an extremely talented actor and wishes to continue his career with his adopted father, Vitoller. Instead Granny Weatherwax tells the town that the Fool is in fact the king's son from another mother, and Tomjon's half-brother, and he is crowned King Verence II of Lancre. Later on, Granny and Nanny reveal to Magrat that the previous fool is actually Tomjon's and Verence II's father.
For those who have never experienced Terry Pratchett's Discworld you are in for a treat. If you're already a fan of his work, I hope you will appreciate that we've tried to keep as much as possible to the spirit of the books. You don't know about the books? I shall attempt to explain.
First, the basics. The Discworld is not earth. The Discworld is... well, a disc shaped planet, flat and round and sitting on the backs of four giant elephants. These elephants themselves are standing on the back of a giant turtle who flies through space. (Still with me?) The Disc is made up of a number of countries including Lancre which you will see tonight. Utilising this wonderful, bizarre world Terry Pratchett is able to write about anything he wants and can get away with it. The Discworld books are spoofs, they are satires, they are adventures, they are... bloody funny.
My first encounter with one was one wet Wednesday afternoon in W.H.Smith. I was at school, I was bored and I was in need of a book. So I bought 'The Colour of Magic' the first Discworld book. Why? I was an avid reader of fantasy fiction, the blurb on the back sounded interesting and it had a comical front cover. It was an easy sell. It wasn't until a few years later that I suddenly realised that virtually everyone I knew had read at least one Terry Pratchett novel and it was when he published 'Mort' the story of Death's apprentice that I really became hooked. Since then I've bought every book as they've come out. There are over 25 Discworld books currently and the good man shows no sign of stopping!
To be general about them the books are each a separate adventure, the only real link being the setting of Discworld, but can be broken down into categories. For example there are the GUARDS books: 'Guards! Guards!', 'Men at Arms', 'Feet of Clay', 'Jingo' and 'The Fifth Elephant' all feature the adventures of the city watch of Ankh Morpork (The disc's most famous city where most of the adventures are set). These are often as not comedy thrillers or murder mysteries with crimes needing to be solved and only the bizarre city guards able to tackle the case.
There are the DEATH books: 'Mort', 'Reaper Man', 'Soul Music', 'Hogfather' etc who all feature the Grim Reaper struggling to understand humanity, while often having to save the universe as well.
There are the RINCEWIND books featuring an inept Wizard who only knows one spell: 'The Colour of Magic', 'The Light Fantastic', 'Sorcery', 'Interesting Times', 'Eric' and 'The Last Continent'.
And while there are other books which are often solo efforts but may feature cameos from the above characters, the other main series within the series is that of the Witches, which brings us to tonight's play 'Wyrd Sisters'.
'Wyrd Sisters' is actually the second book to feature Granny Weatherwax (the first being 'Equal Rites') but it is the first to feature her with Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick who are the coven of Bad Ass in Lancre. Three Witches who happily go about their own business until danger threatens the land and they find themselves drawn into the chaos. Following 'Wyrd Sisters' the Witches returned again in 'Witches Abroad', 'Lords and Ladies', 'Maskerade' and 'Carpe Jugulum'. So if you do enjoy the play you can read the books and enjoy the rest of their mad adventures.
But Discworld is no longer just a set of books. They are a genuine phenomenon as you can buy Discworld Quiz books, Discworld music, Discworld games (Eric Idle of Monty Python fame plays Rincewind in two computer games!), you can buy Discworld figures, bookends and t-shirts. Two of the books, 'Wyrd Sisters' and 'Soul Music', were made into cartoon serials with all-star casts and one of his novels 'Good Omens' is soon to be made into a film by Terry Gilliam. There is no stopping Terry Pratchett, each book is an instant bestseller as readers the world over are hooked on these tales of magic, love, trolls and odd folk.
I myself will continue to read them as long as they keep coming. Having created a world where anything can happen it must be hard to run out of ideas. So watch the play... enjoy, and then (if you haven't already) go out and read the books... you won't forget them!
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Granny Weatherwax: a witch||Ruth Prior|
|Nanny Ogg: a witch||Ingrid Corrigan|
|Magrat Garlick: a witch||Robin Hall|
|Verence: late King of Lancre||Simon Walton|
|Leonal Felmet: Duke of Lancre||Alan Welton|
|Lady Felmet: his wife||Sue Dawes|
|Vitoller: an actor-manager||David Hill|
|Mrs Vitoller: his wife||Judy Bodenham|
|Fool: a Fool||Nathan Chapman|
|Tomjon: son of Verence||Phil Stoker|
|Hwel: a playwright||Jaspar Utley|
|Peasants||Tricia Cane |
|Guards||Paul Davies |
Richard Le Moignan
|Robbers||Andrew Caple |
|Actors||Tricia Cane |
|Stage Manager||Zoe Corrigan|
|Assistant Stage Manager||Liam Penny|
|Lighting Design||Damon Wakelin|
|Lighting Operation||Tim Taylor|
|Poster Design||Pete Woodward|
|Set Design||Zoë Corrigan|
|Programme Editor||Derek Callam|
|Front of House||Peter Corrigan|
It is difficult to know where to begin when you are given a play set in a fantasy kingdom which is set on a flat planet supported on the back of four giant elephants and a giant turtle. A quick skim through the play reveals that not only does it feature witches, lightning bolts being thrown across the stage and witches flying on broomsticks, it also features a physical manifestation of a demon.
Tricky! But it sounded like a laugh and so here we are. I was very lucky that the Bench decided to select this play, as an avid fan of Mr Pratchett I thought it would be exciting to do. But imagine me trying to pitch the play with the following opening line "It's set on this flat planet right which is on the back of some elephants..." To say there were a number of blank looks was an understatement. I think everyone voted for it because they wanted to see how I was going to do the elephants.
There are no elephants. Not in this particular Discworld Story. In basic terms this play is "Terry Pratchett does Shakespeare" as elements of 'Hamlet' and 'Macbeth' feature in this production - the ghost of the murdered king haunts the castle, the murderer is unable to wash the blood from his hands - although they are given the Pratchett twist.
This play has been both the most difficult and the easiest to direct in that it's the largest cast by far I've ever had to co-ordinate, not to mention the huge backstage team who I would like to thank here for their hard work! But it's also the first show I've done that has no real set (Those who remember 'Charley's Aunt' will know how much I like to have a real set!) It also features a smoke machine, pyrotechnics and more lighting and sound cues than in all the previous plays I've directed combined. My lighting designers normally love me with my lights up, lights down attitude towards lighting. After this they are contacting shady underworld figures handing over my photo and address as well as large slabs of cash to men with guns called Bruno.
As for the easy bit, that comes from having a play so wonderfully adapted from the book by Mr Stephen Briggs giving us this gift of a script of one liners, wonderful comic set pieces and a set of oddball characters that the cast have risen to the challenge of playing. We have had a great time rehearsing this play, I'm sure we've had far too much fun, I just hope that you enjoy it as much here tonight!
This bitty adaptation does not serve Terry Pratchett's wonderfully-imagined Discworld novel well. Bench Theatre's production doesn't quite come off although all the essential elements are there - the large-than-life characters, the twists on familiar themes and the Pratchettesque humour.
Performances are generally sound. Ruth Prior, Ingrid Corrigan and Robin Hall make as likeable trio of witches as you're likely to fund this side of a blasted heath, but cues need to be picked up a lot quicker.
Nathan Chapman, too, is on top form, but elsewhere there is much unnecessary shuffling of feet. The direction lacks pace and the near three-hours running time could have been cut by a rethink on scene changes. A televisual script needs tweaks for the stage set. The Bench is clearly in the top three local theatre companies, but this production won't help its reputation. Until Saturday.
The News, 27th February 2002