So last night was a slight historical event in my life as my housemate and I went to see the 'Director's Cut' of Wyrd Sisters performed by the Studio Theatre Club at the Unicorn Theatre in Abingdon. I've been aware of the STC for years, ever since I started snooping around the web for Discworld-related stuff in my teens, as it contains the talent that is Stephen Briggs (the guy who has written the many Discworld plays). However it was only fairly recently that I realised they perform in Abingdon, a mere ten minutes drive from Oxford. After I found out that vital piece of information it was simply a matter of waiting for their next Discworld play. And lo, this January it was Mr Briggs new and improved version of Wyrd Sister's, originally performed back in 1991. The new version includes additional scenes, characters, and according to the website, a bigger budget (and you could tell, we were particularly impressed by the magic wand which shot flames into the air!).
It's been a while since I last saw a performance of Wyrd Sisters so I couldn't tell you exactly which bits are new, but I thought this performance was excellent and definitely outstripped the versions I've seen before. The three witches, played by Kath Leighton (Granny), Judy Leonard (Nanny), and Sarah Viner (Magrat), were spot on. Granny Weatherwax was the spitting image of Paul Kidby's excellent drawings, inspired by the books, and got the perfect balance between 'stubborn old woman' and 'most powerful witch of her time'. Nanny Ogg was suitably bawdy, and I loved the scene in the dungeon when she confers with the ghost of Old Verence to discomfort Duke Felmet. Sarah Viner's performance as Magrat was perfect, conveying Magrat's wet-hen innocence, but being endearing rather than annoying (as I sometimes find Magrat in the books). We also thought that their costumes (and the costumes throughout the play) were brilliant, with Granny's hat and cloak drawing our admiration in particular.
In terms of the villains, Matthew Kirk as an imposing Duke Felmet, and Heather Neary as his caustic wife, were brilliantly sinister with Felmet seeming constantly on the brink of dropping off the edge of sanity. Heather Neary was especially scary, and I can see why she always plays villains (as explained in the programme). Verence the fool was played hilariously by Jamie Crowther; I was particularly impressed by his wielding of the bladder-onna-stick, and loved the moment when he pulls out his handkerchief for Felmet, only to reveal that, it too, has bells on it. Stephen Briggs, as Vitoller, was even better than we had expected, and I also enjoyed his second role as Champet Poldy, the guard who is faced by Granny Weatherwax's unconvincing 'innocent apple seller' routine. Another highlight was the demon-raising, always my favourite scene in any version of Wyrd Sisters, in this one he appeared wearing a shower cap (with horns sticking out) and holding a devilish rubber duckie.
I'm now very much looking forward to the STC's next Discworld play, due November 2009 I believe, and would recommend any Discworld fans in the area to look out for it, but book early - Wyrd Sisters does have two more performances, tonight and tomorrow, but is completely sold out!