Review of Mort (2003) by Hayley Horton

Reviewer: Hayley Horton
First published in: Adelaide Theatre Guide
Date of review: 24 October 2003

Only in a Terry Pratchett story, would you find Death taking on an apprentice in order to have a night off. This is the premise for Unseen Theatre Company’s latest production, directed by Pamela Munt.

Adapted for the stage by Stephen Briggs, Pratchett’s discworld novel is both witty and clever giving the cast an ample base from which to grow.

Tim Bates as the title role is a down-and-out, taken on as Death’s apprentice. With suitable awkwardness and bewilderment, Mort is tutored in the workings of the underworld. Bates keeps up the momentum of the role well, but lacks the sinister element when becoming the embodiment of his mentor.

Sam James as Death gives the role an element of “heart” making the audience almost feel sorry for such a foreboding character. James’ understanding of the role allows for some very funny dialogue, especially when Death hits the town, complete with drunken revelry and obligatory curry.

When Mort takes on the mantle, he saves the life of a princess who should have died and chaos begins to reign.

To right the wrongs, showman wizard, Igneous Cutwell is enlisted. Andrew Dowling portrays the role with delight, delivering the hilarious dialogue with accuracy and his timing is spot-on.

The other colourful characters of this production create a tapestry of fantasy, romance and humour. Miriam Keane as Ysabell (the awkward, yet determined daughter of Death) and Sam Priestly as the mysterious Albert give solid performances, while Danny Sag as the doorknocker (complete with full mouth) gives a particularly articulate performance.

The dialogue is a little slow for such as snappy piece, but the incidental music (either particularly appropriate but more invariably ironic) and good use of the small stage area keeps the pace going.

The costuming by Pamela Munt and Violet Rowe is appropriate to the fantasy setting, with the exception of a mismatched technicolour dreamcoat in the second act.

The only hiccup, which brings the show to a standstill, is the strange and somewhat ill fitting dance number, which not only distracts, but the Les Miserables selection grates on what is overall a decent production.

This aside, Mort is dead funny for Pratchett fans both old and new with an evolving cast that are sure to develop with each production.