Conjuring up a little theatre magic

Key characters in Alnwick Theatre Club's production of Wyrd Sisters.
Key characters in Alnwick Theatre Club's production of Wyrd Sisters.

Wyrd Sisters, performed by Alnwick Theatre Club at Alnwick Playhouse on Thursday, August 16.

They say that fortune favours the brave.

And in the case of Alnwick Theatre Club’s latest production, this was certainly true.

Make no mistake about it, choosing to perform Wyrd Sisters on the Playhouse stage was brave.

There’s an argument, I think, for saying that a fantasy story about three witches who live on a disc-shaped world which is balanced on the backs of four elephants, which, in turn, stand on the back of a giant turtle, probably isn’t everybody’s cup of tea.

And just so we’re clear, that’s not a swipe at Wyrd Sisters’ author Terry Pratchett, Stephen Briggs, who adapted the novel for the stage, or the theatre club.

I’m also well aware that the Discworld series, of which Wyrd Sisters is the sixth novel, is a popular and huge-selling set of books – so clearly there is massive demand for it.

All I’m saying is bringing this tale of witchcraft – albeit with a comic twist – to the Alnwick stage possibly wasn’t something we saw coming.

And maybe, without sounding too critical, this was emphasised by a half-empty Playhouse on Thursday night (although this may have been because people went to the performances on Wednesday, Friday or Saturday instead).

But on the stage, it was a courageous move which certainly paid off. Because the club conjured up an enjoyable show which produced performances that were, well – magic!

Take Gary Brown for example. He was excellent as a bumbling, weasly villain Duke Felmet. In fact, his portrayal reminded me of Rowan Atkinson’s performance of The Black Adder – and it worked a treat.

By contrast, his wife Duchess Felmet is the more dominant and wicked of the two and Clair Birbeck was effectively firm, nasty and ruthless, giving her character real personality.

Helen Gee was delightfully over the top as playwright Hwel, while Nick Lewis excelled as The Fool/Sergeant of the Guard, delivering his comic lines well and to good effect.

Then there were the witches. Sally Miller had suitable presence as Granny Weatherwax while Jade Curran brought young witch Magrat Garlick to life with her innocence, eagerness and short temper. Philippa Mawer gave a solid performance as Nanny Ogg.

Director Daniel Watkins said the cast had been reading the novel to understand their characters, and this showed.

There were some nice touches too which kept the plot moving quickly and helped keep the story easy to follow.

It also helps that it is a really good story (hence why Pratchett has sold so many novels).

That said, I do believe it was a brave choice, although one which yielded arguably the best club performance I have seen.

I just wish more people had been there to see it.