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KATS - Carpe Jugulum

30th August to 1st September 2001.

This is the Newbury Weekly News review.

Weird world

'CARPE JUGULUM', performed by KATS, at Kennet School, from Thursday, August 30 to Saturday, September 1

Terry Pratchett's series of 'Discworld' books, 26 books so far, has a huge following of devoted fans, and has spawned a multi-million pound industry, selling all kinds of merchandise and memorabilia. Many of these fans filled the Kennet School hall last week for KATS' production of 'Carpe Jugulum', an adaptation by Stephen Briggs, of one of the books. The author himself was also present on the first night.

Being unfamiliar with the books, I invited a devotee to accompany me, to provide some background information. Each book is a complete entity, but they are linked by the people and places created by the author's fertile imagination. We were intrigued to know how certain aspects of this book would be presented on stage.

The long list of characters could easily bewilder the uninitiated, so a character called 'The Expert' had been invented to introduce them. David Lewis, in this role, gave a diffident performance, possibly affected by first night nerves, which did little to help our understanding of what was to follow. However, I soon got used to the weird world, despite the esoteric material which seemed familiar to most of those around me. But it was hard going. Whether the fault of the hall's acoustics, or poor diction, with notable exceptions, I found much of the dialogue difficult to decipher from near the back of the auditorium.

At three-and-a-half hours, including the interval, the whole production was far too long. With some judicious cutting and very much firmer direction, an hour could easily have been trimmed off with no adverse effect.

In a large and enthusiastic cast, Mike Cole as the Count of Magpyr was outstanding. He was consistently evil, yet strangely likeable. The scene between him and Granny Weatherwax, played by Pam Delaney, was the dramatic highlight of the evening as they battled to control each other's minds. Andy Pocock as the Count's son, Vlad, also gave a confident performance.

Agnes Nitt and her alter ego Perdita X, played by Pauline Swynford and Natasha Holmes made a good double act, although not exactly fitting the physical description ascribed to them. Also deserving mention, Mike Brook as the Rev. Mightily Oats gave a solid performance. Among the many special effects, the appearance of Death was particularly impressive.

The author was last seen, smiling bravely, as a long queue formed afterwards for his autograph.