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Review: Carpe Jugulum St Bernadette’s Players 02/11/12

A review by David Riley.

Carpe Jugulum is a comedy-horror stage adaptation of novelist Terry Pratchett’s story of the same name.  Featuring a cast of witches and vampires, it is set in his fantasy creation: Discworld. Staging it is a challenge for anyone, as it calls for a cast of at least 19 and has 27 scenes. A brave choice, then, for amateur dramatics which in this case caused the performing group, St. Bernadette’s of  Bispham to call upon Cleveleys neighbours, The Lancastrian Players, for three additional actors.

Presentation was imaginative, with a largely bare stage relying on the darkness between scenes to allow actors to bring on and place the small number of props used.  It relied on the audience’s imagination, guided by the descriptions in the script, to conjure up diverse locations such as a cave or a castle. Crowds were conjured up (admirably and humorously played) by between one and three actors! This was all helped by good light and sound effects in the well-equipped hall.

The story might be quickly told: The Kingdom of Lancre is on the brink of being taken over by the Magpyr family of vampires who have become less stupid over the years and (somewhat) less blood thirsty, instead being more diplomatic. The only ones who might stop them are a small group of witches, unlikely heroines of the story who are related by marriage to the rulers of Lancre. The witches are led by the indomitable Granny Weatherwax and assisted by Mightily Oats, the Quite Reverend, whose faith in Omm (don’t ask) protects him from the vampires’ wiles. A series of adventures follow and…well, I won’t reveal all.  The director, Samantha Fish, says in her programme notes that there are 39 Discworld novels and this might be the one you start with to get your teeth into the series. Sorry.

As I said above, this is a brave choice for any group to try and there were a couple of problem areas. The play requires in its opening scenes an ‘expert’ or narrator which in this production was presented as a disembodied voice. This might better have been done by having an actor take the part and perhaps moving among the audience to aid with volume (not entirely sucessful through use of microphone and speaker alone) and perhaps it would have been better dramatically. Secondly, there was a slight problem occasionally with vocal projection and enunciation from the stage which again detracted from several points that were clearly written to be funnier than they were presented or received.

The main problem was not in production, however, but in the writing of the piece. The many scenes seemed too often to be vehicles for conversation and humour while the plot was sometimes left to languish. This made for a long, if still largely enjoyable evening.  By performing something relatively new and challenging was a worthwhile choice and this attempt to gain new audience members and participants by a break from traditional am-dram fair was a good idea.

Friday evening’s performance was the final staging of this play but should you be curious about either watching or taking part in drama, there are several amateur groups across the Fylde with productions throughout the year. St. Bernadette Players take to the boards again in February with Robin Hood. If you’d like to be a part of it go along to the church hall on All Hallows Road Bispham.  Alternatively, they can be contactd via their Facebook page.

 

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