TERRY PRATCHETT'S MASKERADE
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Review by Caroline Franklin, May 2017
Maskerade, a play adapted by Stephen Briggs from Terry Pratchett's book of the same name, is full of colourful characters, packed with Pratchett humour and Newbury Dramatic Society deserve a pat on the back for thinking out of the box and choosing it for their return to The Watermill.
The story, a spoof on Phantom of the Opera, is concerned with a masked ghost in a theatre where a production is about to take place. Since the ghost has taken to killing people and laying down the law as to which singer should take the lead part, there is much for those in charge to worry about. Nevertheless, the show must go on.
It begins superbly with a crash of Phantom music and assorted characters on the (intentionally) gloomy stage, including one Agnes Nitt, a would-be opera star (Rhiannon Bland) and Christine (Jess Spath) as the singer in residence. Both gave excellent and often very funny performances.
The two witches, who do their best to discover the ghost's identity, had large and important parts to cope with. Phyllis Bennet was a lively Nanny Ogg and Isabel Oettinger as Granny Weatherwax looked magnificently witchlike, but on Thursday night the dialogue between them, particularly in the earlier scenes, frequently lacked the required expressiveness and pace and this considerably slowed down the thrust of the play.
Being Pratchett, the words were so clever – references to "maids of honour ending up as tarts" and "the corps de ballet and the corpse of Mr Pounder" after a killing were a dime a dozen and you needed to be quick to enjoy them all.
There were good performances among the large cast, including Andrew Smith as MD, finally unmasked as the murderer who gave the audience the best and most protracted death since Peter Sellers in The Party. Sarah Enticknap successfully put more than a touch of the Mrs Overall's into down-trodden Mrs Plinge and John Hicks (Dr Undershaft), Mike Huxtable (Seldom Bucket/Bouquet) and Ceri Lawrence (Walter Plinge) were among the strong supporting roles.
With its mix of costumes, dramatic story and Terry Pratchett's words, Maskerade produced and directed by John Hicks, should have been a winner. As I have said, there was much that was enjoyable, but Newbury Dramatic Society can do better.