‘Making Money’ was capital.
Brisbane Arts Theatre has gone all out with glittery design, eccentric characters and a big cast in a fantasy romp.
The sharp wit and offbeat fictional world of legendary British fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett are taken on by the company in the three-act comedy, ‘Making Money’. The stage adaptation by Stephen Briggs is drawn from Pratchett’s 2007 novel of the same name, his second about conman Moist Von Lipwig. In the show, Moist (fresh from recent bank robberies) is surprisingly offered a job as director of the Royal Bank and Mint of Ankh-Morpork by the city’s ruler, Lord Vetinari. Following the death of Topsy Lavish, who leaves her majority share of the bank to her dog, Mr Fusspot – which she then leaves to Moist – our hero has the role of bank chairman thrust upon him.
The young Von Lipwig must then contend with the bitter remaining Lavish siblings, the strange and archaic workings of the bank, and a variety of bizarre adversaries as he tries to modernise the institution, stay alive, and turn a profit along the way.
Set design in this production by Steven Beeston and Tim Pierce is impressive, with detailed Roman archways and shopfronts backed up by an intricate city skyline built into the top of the set. Complimenting this set is lighting design from David Willis, which highlights that skyline with a red glow from the back wall and dynamic use of spotlights throughout. Strong choices in lighting design, plus dynamic sound design from Zoe Power, are particularly on display in the underwater vault scenes as the stage is transformed into a blue, bubbling and echoey chamber. Costume design by Frances Foo, assisted by Kirily Jago, is also impressive. From the villainous and somehow sinister robes of Cosmo Lavish and Lord Vetinari to the flamboyant gothic dress of Pucci Lavish and the creepy get-up of hunchback Igor; the costumes felt like they were pulled from a variety of eras, fitting the hodgepodge of references that is ‘Making Money’.
The three-act, two-interval structure may intimidate some audiences, but the second two acts were much shorter, possibly throwing into question the need for two ten-minute intervals. These are questions presumably considered by director Tallulah M.E. Grey, who overall does a good job of keeping the cast and (crucially) the audience focused across a longer show.
Any adaptation of a novel to stage poses a number of issues in production, particularly novels rich in description, subplots, and a large cast of characters. However, Brisbane Arts Theatre has a history of staging the work of Pratchett, and Grey and the rest of the team largely succeed in taking on the script. Initially, it felt as though some scenes or digressions could be cut from the production, however, they gained new significance in later scenes and became part of the plot. The large cast was given the chance to shine in their own moments in the spotlight, and the audience enjoyed various actors’ ability to respond to the crowd and get some laughs.
On opening night, understudy Tom Molnar stepped up and was likeable and eloquent as an upper-class English Moist Von Lipwig. John Grey somewhat stole the show as the stern but humorous Lord Vetinari, with a killer eyebrow slant. Grey lifted the energy in his scenes, bringing comedic relish and obvious experience to the show. Steve Durber played Mavolio Bent well, providing a foil for more outlandish characters like the cape-swishing Cosmo Lavish, played by an undeniably funny and committed Jon Darbro. Fran Price was an audience favourite with her colourful depiction of the eccentric Mrs Topsy Lavish, and Nick Daly stood out with his comedic instincts as a bank worker and ghoulish assistant to Peter Van Werkhoven’s wild mad scientist character. The rest of the ensemble brought gusto to their roles and worked together to bring the play’s quirky world to life.
With this production of ‘Making Money’, Brisbane Arts Theatre gives new actors and some old hands a chance to have plenty of fun in the world of Pratchett and provides the audience with a visual and joyful celebration of the author and community theatre.
‘Making Money’ runs until Saturday, 15 May 2021 at Brisbane Arts Theatre. For more information and tickets, visit Brisbane Arts Theatre’s website.