Review of Mort (2000) by Susan Oldknow

Reviewer: Susan Oldknow
First published in: Adelaide Theatre Guide


‘Death’ takes a night off and suddenly two realities collide in Stephen Briggs’ adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s clever and amusing Mort.

Directed by Erik Strauts, a small but determined cast has a ball with the quirky script and larger than life characters.

Alistair Brown delivers a strong, pivotal Mort, recently appointed assistant to the big ‘D’ himself. He has nice comic timing and a natural style that acts as a catalyst to the overdrawn characters that surround him. A veritable ‘stranger in a strange land’.

Bruce Alcorn, as Death, has a difficult job, acting through his heavy disguise (and sometimes wayward costuming) but he does well. He has particular success in a lovely scene where death wants to find a new job. His deadpan portrayal (if you’ll excuse the pun) is a joy. He is ‘Death’ with attitude and a soft spot or two.

Melanie Munt made a suitably disdainful princess while Lauren Hillman was a fun Ysabell, Death’s adopted daughter, bringing a Geisha-like quality to her innocent, yet wise, characterisation.

Harry Probert as Cutwell, the Wizard, demonstrated good comic flare in a smooth and attractive portrayal. He has some of the best lines in the show and delivers them beautifully. While Roger Mansfield, as Albert, is a stand-out. His excellent performance is probably only overshadowed by his nose (you have to be there).

Supporting roles are tackled with gusto by Pamela Munt, Bruce Mitchell, Shakil Ahmed, Kathy Strauts, Qudsia Ahmed and, particularly Megan Dansie who plays nicely distinctive characters and attempts a few accents to boot.

Direction appears a little erratic sometimes. The accents are an example. I might suggest that it’s an all or nothing thing with accents. Also the number of scene changes is distracting. A total blackout is not achievable in this performance space and the backstage crew has to work very hard, in difficult circumstances, to get from one scene to the next. Changes could happen without so much disruption, perhaps with freezes and lighting, although the choice of musical accompaniment to the changes was well conceived and a lot of fun.

I enjoyed the imaginative costumes and sets (watch out for the doorknocker) and there were loads of laughs along the way. The production has yet to really start to flow, but once the cast and crew has a couple of performances under their belts Mort will gallop along like Binky. (In-joke: go see Mort to find out more!!!)