Review: Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment live in Cardiff
We went to the Friday 3rd November performance of Monstrous Regiment at the Gate Theatre in Cardiff. This was the third night of The Monstrous Productions and Peculiar Productions joint show with a matinee and evening performance planned for the Saturday.
We've seen several Pratchett adaptations be Monstrous / Peculiar production at the Gate over the last several years but Monstrous Regiment was the first Pratchett production they tackled so it was fun to watch them come full circle.
As always the plays support local charities and this time they were supporting Shelter Cymru and Gwent Children's Diabetes. The production raised enough to be able to donate £1200 to each charity.
I'll say up front that Monstrous Regiment was never my favourite Pratchett novel (it never quite worked for me) so I wasn't sure what to expect.
I need not have worried. Under that watchful eye of director Amy Curson and co-director Edward Thomas the story flowed well with some excellent performances. The beauty of Pratchett plays is that there is little need for elaborate sets. A couple of boxes, a chair and a desk are often all that is needed to set a scene. Monstrous did add a few extra set dressings but not so much as to slow down the many changes of scenery.
The production is quite meta with men and women playing women, pretending to be men and then at certain times, pretending to be women, playing men, playing women. It could easily get quite confusing but the cast seem quite capable of handing all the costume and attitude changes that these roles require.
This isn't a laugh a minute production - the story is quite serious about gender identity and equality (something that resonates even more now that when the book was written), however Josh Flynn playing Igor / Igorina gets most of the laughs. His performance is very strong and his comedy timing is excellent. Talking to a concussed Maladict, Igor asks "How many fingers am I holding up?" whilst holding a jar full of what looks like amputated digits.
Lucy Goodyear puts in a solid performance as our lead protagonist Polly Perks / narrator (where she breaks the forth walk to talk directly to the audience). It was also good to see Michael Dickinson-Smith get to show his chops playing a role other than Lord Vetinari. Of course we were very please to see Jes Hynes return as Commander Vimes. For me, I really can't see anyone else playing Vimes. He really nails the role of cynical bastard well (Jes is really nice in reality). I also have to wonder how Matt Hitchman's voice will be on Sunday after all the shouting he has to perform as Sgt. Jackrum. I love the juxtaposition of the role from shouting orders to his men to the quiet scenes with just Polly.
There were a few times I found it hard to hear some of the younger actors. I'm not sure if they just haven't learned to project well yet but there was some great dialog that was lost to me due to this.
The choice of musical interludes between scenes did tend to get a bit repetitive and didn't add to the performance overall. There were some good lighting effects but overall the story was told by the performances on stage.
I have to say it was great coming back to the Gate Theatre and watching another excellent Pratchett adaptation. I really hope to see more productions there in 2024.
Overall a fun return from a great company. It's really great to be back watching live productions again.
Oh, and somebody pass me that copy of Monstrous Regiment - I think it's time for a re-read.