KATS - Moving Pictures
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KATS - Moving Pictures

31st July to 2nd August 2008.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Enough to impress a non-fan

Kennet Amateur Theatrical Society: Moving Pictures, at Kennet School, Thatcham, from Thursday, July 31 to Saturday, August 2

Let me confess up front: I’m not a fan of Terry Pratchett's Discworld fantasy land. To describe it as Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy meets Monty Python and The Goodies may be unfair, but it gives you a starting point.

Moving Pictures is a stage adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s book of the same name by KATS director John Hicks and co-director Kevin Miller. When the alchemists realise there isn’t any money to be made turning lead into gold, they move to Holy Wood and embark on the invention of movies (or clicks, as they call them). The play covers the era of the silent clicks, with the cameras powered by six demons (two to paint the pictures and four to blow them dry), and contains lots of neat allusions to films, especially Gone with the Wind and King Kong.

The producer Mr Silverfish gets bulldozed by hot-dog vendor Dibbler, who sweet-talks his way into becoming the cigar-toting director, with Ginger and Victor (plus Victor’s dog Gaspode) as his lead actors. Ginger and Victor provide the (platonic) love interest. Dibbler never achieves his dream of a film with 1000 elephants, before Holy Wood collapses.

The most notable thing about this large-cast production (I counted 31 at the curtain call) was the high standard of acting throughout. The main characters Dibbler (Kevin Miller), Ginger (Jenna Sharpe), Victor (David Richardson) and Gaspode (Ruth Gostelow) were all excellent.

Among the many other high class performances were Siouxsie Ashmore as Silverfish, Kieron Turner as the Arthur Mullard-like troll Detritus, Claire Bowden as Soll, and Keith Phillips and Hayley Shrestha Jon Lovell as the two wizards (although I never did work out what the Ming vase with the spitting elephants was all about).

The costumes, props and makeup were splendid, and very effective.

The action had a large number of different scenes, which fitted in well with the large stage, but the scene transitions inevitably slowed things down; it would work better as a television production or film, and at nearly three hours, Moving Pictures is an epic in its own right.

I’m still not a fan, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this quality show.

PAUL SHAVE

This response to the review was published as a letter in the Newbury Weekly News.

Terry Pratchett's applause was a big compliment to the cast

I am writing in response to the NWN's review of the KATS production of Terry Pratchett's Moving Pictures (August 8).

I apologise for not referring to the author of the review by name in this letter, hut he or she seemed unwilling to take credit for the article.

I believe it was a mistake to send someone who is "not a fan of Terry Pratchett's Discworld fantasy land". While it was great that this person still enjoyed the production, and could follow the well-adapted storyline (the Ming vase and elephants were explained in the dialogue), it probably meant that they were not as well positioned to appreciate the production than if they were already a fan of the genre (as the majority of the audience were).

I am aware that reviews are supposed to maintain a degree of objectivity, but you would not send a classical music lover to review a death metal concert.

I appreciate that your readers need a brief synopsis of the plot. However, the key word would be 'brief' as opposed to half the article. This left very little space for your reviewer to give credit to the people involved or indeed provide much of a review.

I agree with your reviewer in praise of the costumes, make-up and props, which were all excellent and tremendously effective. He was also correct in singling out the performances of all the main characters, whose acting and characterisation were superb. However, Jon Lovell (who played one of the two wizards) may have been somewhat disappointed to be referred to as Hayley in the article.

The play was longer than some other productions, but if your reviewer had been in any way familiar with Terry Pratchett's work, he would have appreciated just how much content there is in any one of his books. The action, inter-twining plot lines, and humorous moments that brilliantly mirror reality are numerous; and therefore to condense this into a stage production without missing many amusing or much loved sequences would seem to be impossible.

However, John Hicks and Kevin Miller did it superbly and much credit should go to them for getting a quart into a pint pot. Moving Pictures may make an excellent TV drama or film with the benefits of studios and special effects, but that further highlights the success of John and Kevin in managing to effectively produce it on stage.

There were many excellent moments that I would have expected to be mentioned in a comprehensive review: the Elvis-style film "trailers", Gaspode's character moments with a hotdog or while sleeping, and the slow motion fight scenes are examples of just a few, and pay credit to the acting, direction, and lighting. These are things that are unique to the company involved and, in my opinion, are the sorts of things that your readers are looking for when they read a review of a recent production.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am aware that it was a complimentary review; however I feel that the KATS crew were somewhat short-changed and deserved more accurate praise.

If in any doubt, ask anyone who was sat within sight of Terry Pratchett himself on the opening night. I am sure it is always nerve-wracking going to watch someone else's adaptation of one of your creations, but he was thoroughly engrossed, laughing out loud, and clapping heartily throughout the evening.

That, if you ask me is the biggest compliment the cast and crew could have wished for.

SHARON MAY

Paul Shave replies:

My name's absence from the review wasn't from any desire for anonymity - the NWN left out two reviewers' names that week.

The point about lack of knowledge of the book is valid, as I couldn't comment on the quality of the adaptation. I would have preferred someone with more Pratchett knowledge to have done the review, but it's hard to find a Discworld-aware reviewer when you need one.

As for the wizards - getting the name wrong is bad enough, but getting the sex wrong as well...! Sorry, Jon and Hayley.

It's often difficult to fit a review into 350 words - if only I had the luxury of Sharon May's 580 words!