Review of The Fifth Elephant by Rod Lewis

Reviewer: Rod Lewis
First published in: Adelaide Theatre Guide

There is a quirky array of characters portrayed in Terry Pratchett’s plays based on his successful Discworld novels. Robin Tatlow-Lord is a dog, before that, she was an orang-utan, now as the narrator of Unseen Theatre’s latest play by the British fantasy writer, she is excellent, as she explains the story of the impending inauguration of a new dwarf Lower King and an insidious plot to overthrow him.

The title of the play refers to a dwarf legend of a fifth elephant that fell off the shell of the Great A’Tuin, the giant space-faring turtle that supports four elephants which carry the flat Discworld on their back.

In this timely piece, werewolves, dwarves, vampires, trolls and humans face a community steeped in tradition and xenophobia.

Commander Sir Samuel Vimes of the City Watch (played wonderfully by George Leaman) is assigned to the town of Uberwald as an ambassador for the inauguration. He is accompanied by fellow City Watch police officers Sergeant Detritus (a troll), Corporal Cheery Littlebottom (a modern-thinking dwarf), and assassin-come-political adviser Inigo Skimmer.

Nick Hargreaves threatens to steal the show as dumb Detritus while Sally Fudge playing Cheery has the makings of a very funny character if she takes it a little more over the top. Unseen stalwart Sam Priestly reprises his role of the height-enhanced dwarf Captain Carrot, once again making it his own.

Melanie Munt is a star as always, this time playing a sexy, savage werewolf and Roger Priess, playing her brother, is equally superb as the deadly beast Wolfgang. As vampire Lady Margolotta, Danielle Seal lacks projection, a problem also afflicting Nicole Seal playing Lady Sybil Vimes.

Directors Pamela Munt and Damien White keep the action flowing fast and frantic although snappier line delivery by the cast would aid the cause.

The use of various melodies to accentuate action or bridge the pauses between scene changes are deliciously tongue-in-cheek, including Bad Moon Rising and Heigh-Ho! from Disney’s Snow White.

There is a disappointing lack of attention to detail however, such as traditional dwarf Dee wearing nail polish and the werewolf Baroness decorated with a silver headpiece and jewellery and the cast upstage themselves and each other too much by walking behind people when talking, looking upstage too much and, in the case of The Patrician, holding the tall staff in his downstage hand, thus hiding his face. But with a bit of thought the problems are all easily rectified by the more experienced performers and will hopefully disappear as the season progresses.

Problems aside, fans of Pratchett plays should get a good laugh out of Unseen’s latest offering, their best so far.