LET Progress Theatre take you on a journey through Terry Pratchett's Discworld, from the noisome swarm of Ankh-Morpork to the wintry landscapes of überwald, a region populated by conservative dwarves, aristocratic vampires and plotting werewolves.
Fifth Elephant, working from Stephen Briggs' adaptation of Pratchett's 24th Discworld novel, joins Ankh-Morpork City Watch Commander Sam Vimes on a diplomatic mission from the city to the mountains, accompanied by a rather undiplomatic group, including a dwarf with gender-identity issues, a troll who prefers to debate with his fists, and a conflicted werewolf. Oh, and there's the small matter of the dwarves' missing Scone of Stone, to sort out.
Director Chris Moran explained that the team of actors at Progress, based in The Mount, Reading, enjoyed staging fantasy plays, in particular, and the play follows on the tail of last year's production of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere: "The year before Neverwhere we did [Pratchett's] Going Postal, which I directed, and there's quite a lot of Terry Pratchett fans in the theatre," she explained. "There's a lot of characters, lots of interesting sets and costumes in the books. We have to be quite creative [with the sets], what we have done is create a basic set similar to Neverwhere, where we have one base stage and then other things that pop out and turn round and come on and off.
"Fifth Elephant is a bit different because it is kind of like a road movie - they go on a quest, and they end up somewhere else, so you never go back to the same place again. There are about 26 different locations, so we had to be mindful of that!"
Chris added that the dedication of Pratchett fans - including John Goodman, who plays Vimes, and read all the Discworld books leading up to Fifth Elephant, in order, to better understand the development of his character - means the cast have an extra burden of not straying too far from Pratchett's characterisation and costume descriptions. "You have an extra layer with Terry Pratchett because we have a lot of die-hard fans that come who have their own expectations because of the descriptions in the book. We're really [just] trying to give the characters life through their costumes." Since the capital city is nearby Reading, diehard fans take advantage of Expedia city breaks to London, and then tour their way to the Progress Theatre.