Soul Music, Wellington Theatre Co at Wellington Arts Centre

promptsould2“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.” (‘Hamlet’ Act 2, sc 2)

Late lamented, Sir Terry Pratchett’s ‘madness’- as expressed in his magnificently hilarious ‘Discworld’ novels, disguises his comprehensive knowledge of our serious, so-called reality.

Terry’s method was to turn his wealth of learning to good account, by exposing the fun that lurks and skitters through the cracks & crannies of human existence. With explosions of unimpeded imagination, he reveals in delightful narratives that parallel normality, the fanciful ridiculousness underlying supposed sanity of our lives. Thus Terry Pratchett releases in his readers & audiences, their fantastical, childlike spirit, to be expressed with wholesome laughter.

Rebecca Beard’s long-gestated project to bring her favourite ‘Discworld’ book into live performance, proves that ‘Soul Music,’ apparently neglected by the many adapters of Pratchett’s literary genius, was long over-due to make its stage debut.

The many-peopled Wellington Theatre Company enthusiatically create the bizarre multi-roles of constables, schoolgirls, musicians, an impresario, academics, aristocrats, plus a plethora of relatives & citizens of various citadels that have arisen on ‘Discworld.’ The cast list itself inspires mirth & our journey begins in the town of ‘Llamedos.’

The riotous story tells how ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ music magically appears on ‘Discworld.’ This involves ‘Susan’ – beautifully interpreted by Sian Gilbert. She is interrupted from her GCSE studies by ‘Grandfather’ aka ‘Death,’ taken in his stride by Mike Leach, his eerily modified voice sounding like Darth Vader. He passes to Susan, his scythe & obliges her to take on his duties, temporarily.

We meet the harpist, ‘Imp y Celyn’ (Ian Jones) whose encounter with two other musicians leads him to take up a guitar of extraordinary quality. Lias the troll drummer (Rob Spurway) plays rocks; he knocks them together & so is born, ‘The Band With Rocks In It.’ (Kirk Shepherd is a vocal vocalist)

The story becomes more complicated as scythe-wielding Susan, her school chums, her skeletal grandpapa, officious officials of the Musicians’ Union, (Lynn Henden & Dave Levi) the aesthete Dean of the Unseen University (Colin Marshall) & impressive Grimmgerda, the Valkyrie, (one of several superb characters inhabited by Maat Ward) plus James Bannister, Penny Bradnum, Henry Fox, Hannah Green, Eve Male, Dawn Morton, Zoe Parkinson & especially notable as an academic, a librarian & Orang-Utan, Marck Pearlstone (to name all the significant actors) proceed by hilarious episodes & eventually congregate at the wildly Free Festival at Discstock.

The broken harp, restored, plays its last gig & the fans of TBWRII, rave on into a happy future of firmly established, hard rock crunching. Opportunist profiteers & money-lenders chase each other at speed too fast for mortal eyes to catch, with ‘Grandfather Death’ following them closely, observed only by the ever-watchful, chainmail-attired constables. The inevitable catastrophe concludes the adventure, leaving its audience happily bewildered yet thoroughly enlightened.

Underpinning the success of the performance are the talents of designer & operators of precise lighting & sound effects, Steve Bradnum assisted by Kit Sells. Imaginative costumes were selected & perfectly fitted by Nancy Powell-Brace & Penny Bradnum; props searched out by Mary Lewis & puppets made by Eve Male, all contributing to a team whose efforts are worthy of praise & a credit to the show’s creator, Rebecca Beard, indebted as she thankfully confesses, to the late lamented, Sir Terry Pratchett. Sadly, ‘Soul Music continues at Wellington Arts Centre, only until Saturday 5th September 2015.


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