Printable CopyGOING POSTAL
Unseen Theatre Company
Bakehouse Theatre
Until 30 Nov 2019

Review by Helen Karakulak

Unseen Theatre Company’s production of “Going Postal” is an ambitious but convoluted retelling of Terry Pratchett’s acclaimed “Discworld” tale. Struggling to maintain substantial technique from any one genre, the production creates an eclectic retelling that begs the question: is the source material insensitive, or just this adaptation?

The humour relies on Pratchett’s world view through the perspective of the protagonist, Moist Von Lipwig. Discworld enthusiasts will easily find enjoyment through references to the original text that this adaptation proudly showcases. However, despite being praised for the cynical wit that comes through in his characters, here Pratchett’s writing comes across as largely superficial and nonsensical, relying on immense cliché and cheap humour.

This production is particularly jarring as it attempts to derive humour from fantasy that reimagines issues ripe in our current social climate. Specifically, a reference to a bathroom rights debate leaves a poor impression of the male-dominated performance.

In this case, the lack of diversity of the characters is a product of the source material and could be overlooked. However, this production obscures the way male characters are viewed, endorsing that the dominant motif of the prospect of freedom is exclusive to men. It is unclear if this is the intention, if it is simply a representation of the time, or rather a convenient outlet to derive humour from outdated clichés, such as shady businessmen lurking in the shadows and masculine men enjoying knitting as a pastime.

Despite personally finding this thought-provoking rather than funny, it’s clear that the intention was to take this as humour at face value, bringing into question why the production would favour cheap criticism of social issues that had no relevance to the plot.

The comedic elements of this performance are commendable but inconsistent. There are moments in which physical comedy is used, but not often enough that you could consider it slapstick. While there were well-timed, relevant jokes, such as self-aware cracks at government service, they weren’t substantial enough throughout to be a satire.

The production was primarily fantastical through its dialogue, a notable element of Pratchett’s wacky writing. These fantasy elements were supported by the presence of wizards with impressive costumes by Jarrad Rammage and use of well-crafted props by Samantha Phillips. However, the juxtaposition of a wizard entering onto a realistic set depicting a post office detracts from the believable elements of fantasy, rather than supports it.

Adam Thorstensson is a stylish Sacharissa Cripslock, with elegant physicality. Kahlia Tutty is well-articulated and proper as Adora Belle Dearheart with a charming expression of disinterested wit.

Danny Sag as Lord Vetinari is a highlight of the performance, offering much-needed structure to the production. He commands the stage with bold physicality as the determined dictator, with impressively consistent voice manipulation to demand correctness as Vetinari sees fit.

Lighting design by Stephen Dean was innovative and effective. Use of confined spots, particularly showcasing Lipwig’s inner monologue, contributes to an element of drama that is often seen in farce.

Although the lighting was well-executed technically, unfortunately there were many a time in which the performers were obscured due to not standing correctly in their light. This was significantly distracting, particularly when stagehands executing lengthy set changes on an unlit portion of the stage were just as in focus as the performers on the adjacent side.

“Going Postal” ambitiously uses elements from various genres throughout the production. Unfortunately, they were used too inconsistently to truly encompass any dominant genre, giving the production an unstructured atmosphere that detracted from attempts at engaging storytelling. This, paired with outdated and questionable humour, made what could have been a vibrant comedy rather difficult watch, cementing dislike of what, based on praise of “Discworld”, are presumably likeable characters. However, with strong performances from standout cast-members and impressive lighting design, “Going Postal” can be an enjoyable night out.