Ooook! Production’s ‘Small Gods’ by Terry Pratchett
Alex Mason watched ‘Small Gods’ at the Assembly Rooms and found himself charmed by a stuffed tortoise and the energy and humour of the show.
Another year, another Pratchett adaptation. Having found Pratchett overrated, I entered last year’s production of ‘Guards, Guards!’ prepared for a disappointment yet came away pleasantly surprised. This time, I went it with an open mind and was immediately put at ease by the outrageous queue length and themed spotlight (they weren’t kidding about World Premiere, eh?).
Robert Smith, as Vorbis, was a genuinely chilling baddy.
The performances matched the high quality entrance and were way above par throughout. Robert Smith, as Vorbis, was a genuinely chilling baddy. It was only when he went to take his bow and stuck his tongue out at the audience that I was able to lose my image of him as a soulless, cold blooded, religious fanatic. Our protagonist Brutha, played by Oli Hilbourne, went from nimwit to saviour very convincingly, and suitably played off the (Om)nipresent tortoise, voiced by Freddie Herman. As a philosophy student, I particularly adored the hilarious Didactylos, with Evan Jones using his considerable comedic talents to draw out the laughs – when isn’t a blind man funny?
I initially had doubts about a stuffed tortoise (sometimes radio controlled on wheels) representing the God Om, but they even pulled that off.
Obviously the play had some shortcomings in execution with a set that seemed a tad cheap at times, but almost all of them were overcome by the large ensemble cast. I initially had doubts about a stuffed tortoise (sometimes radio controlled on wheels) representing the God Om, but they even pulled that off. One minor thing that detracted from the rest was the haphazard narration. With some of the segues flubbed I couldn’t help but feel some of the biggest laughs may have been squandered, but then again the inexplicable appearances of death, played by Alistair Linsell (who also contributed to perhaps the best sight gag of the play as a bewildered philosopher in a towel) were a welcome bonus.
…as a play the script was funny, well scoped, and engaging.
Having only read the first Discworld novel, and so having no prior knowledge of Small Gods I can’t comment on the quality of the work as an adaptation. However, as a play the script was funny, well scoped, and engaging. Clocking in at near the 3 hour mark, I’m willing to hazard a guess that the whole thing may have been trying to be too faithful to the book. Near the end the plot became jumpy and confusing, and I increasingly got the impression that a lot of the scenes were just there to squeeze in the book plot. I’d have been equally, if not more, happy with a good 45 minutes cut off the total time.
In short, I spent the majority of the play excited and charmed and came away with the distinct impression stuffed toy tortoises can, in fact, talk and that Pratchett on stage, when done well, can be a match made in Heaven…or Jannah…or Elysium…erm or Valhallah – you get the picture.