Review of The Last Continent by Stephen Davenport

Reviewer: Stephen Davenport
First published in: Australian Stage
Date of review: 11 October 2009

Unseen Theatre Company provides another rousing and hilarious incursion into the fantastical Discworld with its latest production The Last Continent. For the first time, Sir Terry Pratchett has given director, Pamela Munt, permission to adapt his novel for the stage. The result is a play that is arguably the finest Unseen has staged, which means it’s something rather extraordinary indeed.

Rincewind – the incompetent and cowardly Wizard – returns, and this time he’s a bonza – sheep shearing, horse riding, and beer swigging, swagman. He’s aided by a talking kangaroo in a land called XXXX (fourecks) that seems very similar to, but most certainly is not, Australia. Here, the heat and the flies can drive a man insane but no one ever called Rincewind normal. Will his ineptitude save the day and finally make it rain in a drought stricken land? No worries mate! The wizards of Unseen University aided by the indomitable Mrs Whitlow have passed through a time and distance portal and arrived on the Last Continent. Then the deliciously eccentric fun begins in an inspired adventure that’s fun for people of all ages.

From the moment Bohemian Rhapsody plays as the audience files into the theatre, over the prone comatose body of a wizard, it’s obvious that this is another absolutely rollicking Unseen escapade. Despite being set in a fantasy world, the performance feels real, the characters seem real and the comical situations all ring true. Thanks to Munt’s magical script – filled with smart observations and intelligent witty comedy – and some perfect portrayals of warped characters, the imagination soars and the ribs ache as jokes rapidly follow one another.

The set helps set the scene. It’s a simple sand covered floor and a few well placed rocks which somehow captures the essence of the Cruel and Unnatural geography of the red-land. Of course, on the Disc, “geography is just physics slowed down, with a couple of trees stuck in it.” A few sheets of corrugated iron represent the town of Didjabringabeeralong. It’s here that DEATH and the dreaded Meatpie Floater are just a couple of the dangers that face a fleeing wizard.

Alistair Preece is ideal as the panic-stricken Rincewind who has trouble managing in the hostile environment, avoiding the deadly fauna and escaping from both the criminals and the law. But it’s Elliott Howard who steals the show with an almost perfect performance as Ponder Stibbons and the Kangaroo God. Overall, the entire ensemble, with a few minor hiccups, is fine and they all add to a fun night at the theatre.

The Last Continent is a rib-tickling satire and a tongue-in-jowl spoof on Australia that’s fabulously funny and well worth seeing more than once.