The Phnom Penh Players theatre troupe is back this Friday with a stage adaptation of Wyrd Sisters, Terry Pratchett’s 1988 parodic reimagining of Macbeth.
The production is a comedy, adapted for the stage by writer Stephen Briggs, which turns Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth on its head. In this version of the classic tale of a murdered king, a treasonous duke and duchess and a kingdom in peril, it’s up to a ragtag coven of witches – Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick – to save the land.
Director Kevan Stuart, a massive fan of the sci-fi writer Pratchett, says Wyrd Sisters seemed fitting as a twisted story around Macbeth, which the Phnom Penh Players is preparing to stage later in the year.
Describing the characters as “fascinating”, he says he especially enjoys the reinterpretation of the witches, who are presented as evil in Macbeth, whereas “[in Wyrd Sisters] the witches are portrayed as evil [by the duke and duchess] but they are not”.
Granny (played by Noreen Crowley) is the most powerful witch in the land, who “tends to regard others as naughty schoolchildren”. Like a strict but well-meaning teacher, she believes that people should be given what they need and not what they want. She has no qualms about “practising psychology on [others] to get them to do what she wants” for the good of the country.
“Granny never lets on when she doesn’t know something. She’s got this cool way of being sure about herself,” Crowley says.
Nanny (played by Alli Bukys) is the good-hearted but self-centred matriarch of her tribe, more “concerned about her next drink and where her next meal is coming” until the world goes to pieces and she whips into action. Magrat (Paula Willis), fresh out of her apprenticeship, is the naïve young one of the three. She has a penchant for the dramatics associated with being a witch, such as gothic style, occult jewellery and banishing demons. With her own set of romantic but impractical ideals of how a witch should be, she is disappointed by the reality of her overly pragmatic fellow witches.
“When Magrat is annoyed, she stamps and flounces off,” Willis says. “[It’s like being] a teenager again without all the other emotional baggage that actually comes with it.”
With a cast of 19 playing 31 characters, Stuart advises theatre-goers to take note of recurring actors who come back as minor characters with one-liners. “Often those lines are the funniest in the entire scene, or the most important,” he says.
“It’s really very funny, if you’ve got a British dry sense of humour.”
Wyrd Sisters will be showing tonight and Saturday at the Department of Performing Arts, Street 173, at 7pm and March 3-4. Tickets cost $10 and are available at Box Office, Showbox, Eleven One Kitchen and Tusk. All proceeds go to OIC Cambodia, an organisation dedicated to speech therapy in Cambodia.