first night

Lords and Ladies

Zenia Selby enjoys an evening of magic and quantum mechanics with Ooook's 'Lords and Ladies'


Before I say anything else about this play, I must say one thing: the set. Kacey Courtney, Neil Robinson and Laurence Stanley only went and designed and built a two-tiered castle. And a bridge. And a furnace. This fantastic set really characterised the magical, other-worldly atmosphere of ‘Lords and Ladies.’

This adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novel was undoubtedly a challenge to stage, but a challenge that was met with equal professionalism from Director Imo Rolfe and Tech Directors Ophelie Lebrasseur and Tom Murton, along with exceptional creativity from Producers Emma Grisedale and Harriet Allen. Containing references to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 18th century Venetian lovers, a castle, teleportation, Morris dancing and rips between universes, this production challenges the audience on many levels: their understanding of how on earth such a fantastic set could be produced, their understanding of quantum mechanics and their understanding of Shakespeare.

The opening scene was beautifully dramatic, accompanied by music, dusted with smoke and characterised by harmonised singing. This really set the tone for the foreboding, powerful presence of the elves. The music for this opening sequence then acted as signpost for the appearance and influence of the elves later in the play, which was a simple but very effective continuity technique. I would also like to praise the ethereal costumes of the elves, which were a stunning combination of designs from medieval times and the Flower Fairies books.

Particular performances that stood out were Helen Fitzmaurice as the main character, Granny Weatherwax. The sheer amount of stage presence and force of character was impressive. However, she was more than matched by the hilariously believable Olivia Race, who played Nanny Ogg. The unusual combination of stripy tights and a black corset summed up her character perfectly, as did her strong Northern accent and convincing physicality. Ben Butterworth’s Shawn Ogg was possibly the most lovable character I have ever seen in a play: his awkward loyalty, terrible trumpet playing and unimpeachable enthusiasm were wonderful comic relief from the powerful, assertive performance from Alison Middleton, who played Magrat Garlick. However, I cannot move on from describing the stellar performances without mentioning the brothers Ridcully. I am not quite sure how Matthew Elliot-Ripley managed to cultivate his voice for this part, but it filled the auditorium amply and comically. In contrast, Jamie Penston Raja’s idiosyncratic sniff characterised the dosed-up Bursar beautifully. He perfected the art of staring into the distance, along with his skills at interacting with a pineapple.

Understandably for a first night performance, there were a few elements to tidy up, such as picking up cues faster, sorting an accidental curtain drop, a few minor lighting issues and collecting props off the stage in time for the next scene to start.

However, in conclusion, this production will be enjoyable for any audience. Whether you want to pick up on all the witty intellectual references, revel in the stunning technical effects, laugh at all the fantastic performances, or ponder on the theories of parallel universes hilariously parodied in the play, you will find yourself in an immersive and generally lovely production. Congratulations to everyone involved.

21 February 2014

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
Our theatre that speaks for itself

DST is proud to be supported by: PwC