Mort is a comedic play based on one of Terry Pratchett’s bestselling Discworld novels, ably adapted by Tim Foster. It tells the tale of the eponymous Mort, chosen by Death to become his apprentice. Mort is interested in justice and cannot understand why certain individuals have to die. One night, while carrying out Death’s duties, he spares a princess’s life – thus endangering all of reality.
The cast is comprised of eight members, many of them playing multiple roles. The standout performance is from Naoise Murphy as a rather nasal recruiter who’s trying to help Death find a job. She also plays a waitress at a party who reacts violently to a goblet appearing on her tray seemingly out of nowhere, and a cursing robber whose prey escapes her by walking through a wall.
In this adaptation, the voice of the actor playing Death has been electronically altered and, combined with his piercing eyes (provided by blue LEDs), he cuts an imposing cloaked figure as he stalks the stage. In general, however, the costumes are hit and miss, with several of the actors incongruously dressed in outfits that don’t really cut it as costumes.
In one of the scenes, a character is supposed to be surprised by the hideous and voluminous dress the princess is wearing – “It’s an heirloom!” – but the audience doesn’t laugh. Why not? The dress is perfectly ordinary – just one example of how Duck in a Hat Theatre company completely misses the mark on what should have been an easily-achieved comic moment.
Each of the scenes is quite short, but scene changes aren’t well executed. The actors didn’t always wait before the lights went down before breaking character and walking off the stage. During set changes, a recorded narrative is used to link scenes, yet the narrator sounded almost bored, which for me really destroyed the comedic mood of the production.
The audience appeared to enjoy the adaptation, but I believe this is only because of a decent script. The play benefits from Pratchett’s popularity – there were clearly a large number of fans in the audience – while Duck in a Hat contribute only sporadically decent performances and generally poor production values. If you want to fully appreciate Terry Pratchett’s wit, read the book.