“The barricades will rise!” proclaims the synopsis of Night Watch, the latest Terry Pratchett adaptation by Ooook! Productions, revised for theatre by Stephen Briggs. And so follows an energetic, compelling and highly amusing play that will be enjoyed by both Pratchett fans as well as those who have never even heard of the Discworld.
I must admit to being one of the former, and have had my suspicions about how well the wit of Pratchett’s work can translate to the stage. The play is largely fragmented into short scenes here and there, which works well to incorporate the huge scope of characters and settings in the story. Despite this fragmentation, however, the plot flows well and is very self-contained, meaning it will be easily understood by those without prior knowledge of the City Watch series.
Director Hannah Ryan, who has worked with Ooook! before as both actor and assistant director, spoke to me about her experience with the play. “There’s nothing quite like directing a Pratchett play,” she told me, “as it throws up many problems, such as building barricades, making zombies crawl out of their own graves and organising a large group of people who are well-armed and dangerous. However,” she reflected, “these issues are slight in comparison to how much fun it is and the percentage of time I spend laughing.”
It is certainly a very funny play, and this humour is brought out incredibly by the actors during rehearsals. It’s fantastic to see such a large cast enjoying themselves so thoroughly, with an enthusiasm that I am sure will carry through to the audience come show time.
Night Watch, however, is not a purely light-hearted laugh. It is at times a bitingly satirical comedy, containing elements of the darkest poignancy as it explores the themes of autocracy, human morality and fate. Set in the infamous Discworld city Ankh-Morpork, the play centres on Samuel Vimes, played by Gregory Smith, as the watch commander who travels back thirty years into his own past whilst chasing the murderer Carcer, played by Thomas McNulty. The city, however, is on the brink of rebellion and Vimes’ chance of returning home is constantly jeopardised by Carcer.
As with most Pratchett stories, Night Watch presents an eclectic and idiosyncratic collection of characters. This production does an excellent job of portraying these to full effect, from McNulty’s seemingly Moriarty-inspired psychopathic killer to Murray Adcock’s patronisingly calm History Monk, Lu-Tze.
Tim Foster, co-founder of Ooook! Productions, is producing Night Watch as his fourth Pratchett adaptation, however it is one that has been on his mind for several years; “I have always wanted to produce Night Watch ever since we set up Ooook!” he confessed, “However, as the show calls for a huge number of gritty characters and not insubstantial amounts of everything else to accompany them, I have not had the confidence to go ahead and actually do it but, after a highly successful world première of Small Gods last year, we finally got down to it and, as ever, our fantastic cast and crew have not disappointed!”
Night Watch will be running in the Assembly Rooms this week, from Thursday 166h to Saturday 18th, including a Saturday matinee. Performances start at 7:30 for evening shows, and 2:30 for the matinee.