Review of Carpe Jugulum by David Grybowski

Reviewer: David Grybowski
First published in: Db Magazine




Carpe Jugulum

Unseen Theatre Company

Bakehouse Theatre

Until 19 July

Reviewed 5 July

Have you seen an Unseen play?  Yes?  You probably have unthought thoughts, too, but who’s to know?  The Unseen Theatre Company, led from the front by Bakehouse’s Artistic Director, Pamela Munt, is the Terry Pratchett specialist in Adelaide.  Some say Terry Prachett’s Discworld series has a cult following, but it’s actually bigger than Ben Hur.  Pratchett was the UK’s best selling author of the 1990s with more than 55 million books sold worldwide, printed in thirty-three languages.  At last count, he wrote thirty-four novels in the Discworld series.  “Carpe Jugulum,” I believe, is number twenty-three written in 1998.  Now how fresh do you think “Rocky XXIII” would be?


For those who are still in the dark, Discworld is a kind of sci-fi comic universe invented by Pratchett to comment on the political and social illogicalities of our own.  And anything goes.  For example, in this offering, a family of vampires, perhaps vaguely modeled on “The Munsters,” have mind-controlled a king married to a witch, and the other witches engage in some magic and mind games to get the kingdom back.  Being part of a series, some familiar characters are on offer for the Discophiles.


Munt’s Unseen mantra is to provide an opportunity for undeveloped thespians and first-timers to have a crack at it, but with so many inexperienced people in the cast, the production never gains traction.  I mean, Pamela can’t do everything – she’s already theatre manager, artistic director, producer, director, publicist, set designer and playing a role.  She’s unseen because she is moving so fast.  It was Philip Lineton with his interpretation of servant Igor who saw the possibilities, what with his speech impediment, deformed body language, bizarre costume and striking make-up.  Sarika Young’s and Michael Coumi’s vampiric siblings showed a certain nascent flair while Suzanna Klarin played a bedizened and lively alter ego.  Munt showed’em how to get lines out to the back row but although she played the lead witch, her character was usually absent, dead, asleep or wounded.  Otherwise, cast members didn’t find what it takes to pull it off and Munt clearly didn’t have the time to whip them into shape – if it wasn’t like herding cats.  Even just some heavy mascara would have helped.  Taking a bat’s eye view, while I found the script very pedestrian (and I’ll let the fans tell me if this is a good Discworld episode or not), it does cry out for much more added business to liven up the proceedings.  The advertised battle between the witches and the vampires was about as interesting as a corporate takeover.  The bat capes were very fetching (Merri Brown – costumes).

I don’t think Unseen will come undone thanks to the huge Pratchett fan base, but aficionados and novices alike would appreciate a higher level of creative development.

 David Grybowski

6 July 2008