Review of Men at Arms by Rod Lewis

Reviewer: Rod Lewis

DISCWORLD is a flat, disc-shaped fantasy land which rides on the back of four gigantic elephants, who in turn are poised on the back of the mighty A’Tuin, a large, space-faring turtle which wanders through the stars in search of a mate.

Once your mind can comprehend this fact of fiction, you are ready for the quirky comedy of Terry Pratchett’s Men at Arms, based on the 15th novel in Pratchett’s Discworld series, and adapted to the stage by Stephen Briggs.

Presented by the Unseen Theatre Company, Adelaide’s only resident theatre troupe to specialise in Pratchett plays, the complicated Discworld comes to life in all its colour and eccentricities with a comical mystery about murder, mayhem and a missing gonne (sic).

The Night Watch, a team that patrols the streets of the city Ankh-Morpork, uncovers an assassination plot when a clown is bumped off twice and a deadly new weapon, known as a gonne (a gun), is stolen.

Director Pamela Munt achieves mixed success with the staging of this complicated comedy, restricted by the limitations of the venue.

The 16 actors display varying levels of experience, but almost all lack energy and pace, plodding through the plot as though bored.

Melanie Munt, as Lance-Constable Angua, and Sam Priestly, in the central role of Corporal Carrot, are in particularly fine form, the latter providing a delightfully dull character that works like a charm.

Lauren Hillman, as Footnote, and Sharman Gilchrist, as her predecessor, offer wonderful tongue-in-cheek performances as the narrators while Sean Venning is hysterical as by-the-book guard, Sergeant Colon.

Joseph Kuehn excels in multiple roles varying from the Patrician’s Secretary to an assassin.

The clever set design by Pamela Munt and Erik Strauts allows for the required multiple scene changes.

However, the backstage crew’s ad-libbed observances of the action during the longer scene changes falls flat. A script would give them more confidence.

Sharman Gilchrist’s imaginative costumes meet the usual high standards of Unseen Theatre’s previous productions with some nice creations for the assorted misfits and creatures of the Discworld.

Sound operator Steve James offers a delightful collection of aural effects and songs, but the recordings cut out too abruptly – is there a fade option on the control panel?

While Men at Arms is surprisingly below Unseen Theatre’s usual standard, a few more performances may see the cast pick up the pace and enthusiasm.