Review of Night Watch by Rod Lewis

Reviewer: Rod Lewis
First published in: The Messenger
Date of review: 20 October 2004

Time travelling chuckle

UNLIKE his other novels, Terry Pratchett’s 27th Discworld story relies on its readers already knowing the characters who populate his fantasy land. It is also the least funny of the series to date, following the tribulations of Commander Samuel Vimes as he tracks down his nemesis when they are both accidentally sent back in time by 30 years. In order to save his own timeline, Vimes must steer his younger self on the right path in life and stop his enemy from changing the past.

Stephen Briggs’ stage adaptation is surprisingly disappointing, relying heavily on good characterisations for most of the humour. Director Pamela Munt meets the challenge with abundance for this Australian premiere, milking the quirkiness of the main characters to keep the laughs regular. But for the uninitiated, it would have been useful to see a breakdown of characters in the program, particularly since fans of Pratchett have the advantage of knowing what each young character is to become later in life.

Steven Parker’s deep voice and commanding stage presence makes him well suited to play Vimes. Matthew Dowdall shows potential as the younger Vimes but needs to stop looking at his feet. The two actors are well matched physically, but their interpretations of the same character at different stages of his life are too far different to be believable. A simple, common mannerism is all that is needed to connect the two generations.

David McBride gives a priceless performance as young Nobby, a street urchin who will one day join the City Watch police force. Despite a few diction and projection problems, McBride is one of the show’s comedy highlights; his every appearance eagerly awaited. Bryan Ormond narrates the story as History Monk Lu-Tze, and demonstrates his versatility by portraying three other characters, as does newcomer William Johnson in a variety of roles, including the future Patrician, Vetinari.

As arch enemy Carcer, Andrew Dowling makes the most of a bland, minor role but is outdone by Tracey Watchman and Kyly Knaggs playing deliciously evil Agony Aunts, Dotsie and Sadie. The remaining actors vary considerably in talent and experience, but what they lack in know-how is made up for with enthusiasm and an infectious sense of fun.

The walls and floor of the Bakehouse Theatre are nicely painted as backdrops to the action, leaving the restricted acting area relatively free for quick scene changes. The few bits of furniture used in various scenes are adequate for all but the barricade scene, where a lack of imagination is glaringly obvious. Munt’s snappy direction is only weighed down by slow line delivery from some of the less experienced cast members. The costumes, by Sharman Gilchrist and Tania Prosdocimo, do not disappoint.

A time-travelling adventure worth making time for.