A master in absurdity, Terry Pratchett used and abused the written word in his creation of the Discworld. Those unfamiliar with his works can still enjoy Mort for its story, characters and comedy, though fans of the original Discworld series will notice narrative gaps in the transition to the theatre. It happens, and really it’s remarkable how much Duck in a Hat Theatre fit into an hour and twenty minutes.
Personified Death is perhaps Pratchett’s masterpiece: droll, witty and at times genuinely intimidating. Duck in a Hat’s interpretation of the character is precise, humorous where it needs to be and fearfully commanding when called for. Cloaked in the archetypal image, Death comes complete with a vocal synthesiser and piercing light-up eyes which dim and shine in tandem with the voice. As expected, Death robs the attention of the room.
Our protagonist too is portrayed sublimely. Whilst some cast members edge on the trims of mediocrity, the character of Mort is carried out well. A subtle mixture of charm and pathos draw the audience into the story effectively; we want to follow Mort’s adventure into becoming Death’s apprentice. We care about the decisions he makes and the outcome.
Certainly not without fault, Mort and Death carry the production. Whilst no one delivers a poor performance, there is a wooden feel to some interpretations of otherwise rigid and comic characters. Susan, for one, has clear acting chops but is only able to display them late into the plot, a downfall in the conversion of the written material into a theatrical piece. Transitions during blackouts could also be sharper; it’s always difficult to move a ‘dead’ character off stage, but when they suddenly leap up, it does ruin the ambience.
Following the previous year’s success with Terry Pratchett’s Eric, it would seem that Duck in a Hat is traversing their way through the Discworld. Well, only 39 years to go… but there’s little complaint here. There is no doubt that Mort is rough at the edges, but it has tremendous potential with a couple of standout performances.