While the show can seem amateurish at times, it ultimately accomplishes its goal of entertaining and amusing the audience.
Monstrous Regiment is an amusing show that succeeds in telling a charming and surprisingly relevant story in a simple and humorous way. SUP’s adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s popular novel succeeds in honouring the deceased author, staying loyal to the original plot, while bringing the story to a new audience of all ages.
Monstrous Regiment follows Polly Perks, a young girl who disguises herself as a man and signs up to join the Borogravian army, in the hopes of finding her missing brother. This is undeniably dangerous, as it is illegal for a woman to fight in the Borogravian army, the crime being punishable by death. She joins a group called the Monstrous Regiment, known as such due to its strange members, including a caffeine addicted vampire, an igor and a troll. They soon find themselves heading to war with no training, facing many difficulties along the way. Despite their lack of training the regiment does well together, surviving against the odds, and earning infamy as they do so. Throughout the journey audiences see the bond between Polly and her fellow soldiers grow and flourish, resulting in the exposure of many secrets, the greatest of which being that many of her comrades are also women. Indeed, by the end of the production, it is revealed that every member of the Monstrous Regiment, with the exception of Lieutenant Blouse, is a woman. This provides the show with a pleasant, though not overwhelming, feminist undercurrent, as the regiment that is most successful, ultimately saving the entire Borogravian army, is largely made up of women. Imogen Higgs skilfully ties this idea of female excellence and ability in with current affairs, as the cast make sly quips throughout the production which seem strangely relevant in this post-Trump election era.
The production stars an admirable cast who work hard to entertain the audience, and for the most part seem to succeed. The greatest aspect of the show is the humour, as Monstrous Regiment embraces jokes both ironic and crass. While some bits are occasionally cheap and obvious, they largely succeed in amusing the audience and carrying the plot. The humour is essential to the success of the production, as while the story is interesting, its length and detail at times endanger it of falling into the trap of being boring. The main issue with these long scenes is that some of the information provided is never again mentioned or used. As such it seems pointless to include it, and the scenes would be more gripping if only relevant information was included.
The actors succeed in gaining both favour and sympathy from the audience, yet despite the best efforts of the cast there are several issues which arise; one such problem being the lack of setting, as the stage is almost entirely bare for the production. Higgs’ intention might possibly have been to give the audience freedom to imagine the world which the play is set in, however the reality is that it gives the production a sense of being amateur. The occasional prop is brought on and a screen is used to inform the audience of where the scene is taking place; however, ultimately the lack of setting takes away from the performance.
Another problem in Monstrous Regiment is the length of the scene changes, as audiences are left in limbo for a surprising amount of time. While this time is necessary for actors to leave the stage and props to be brought on, the length of the breaks between scenes adds to the sense of the show being amateur. While all the main cast are entertaining in their own way, performances that are particularly amusing are those given by Frankie Payne (Polly Perks), Paul Cresser (Maladict), Christopher Gardener (Lieutenant Blouse) and Stephan Fenerty (Sergeant Jackrum). Their performances are the most striking, as they share an intoxicating chemistry and spark life into the production with their humour and charisma.
Ultimately Monstrous Regiment is an amusing show that explores the story of Polly Perks and her regiment in a sweet and simple way. While the production can feel amateurish at times, it largely succeeds in entertaining its audience, providing a pleasant night out for family and friends.
Monstrous Regiment ran at Nuffield Theatre from 31st January to 4th February. Tickets for other shows at the theatre can be found here. Watch the trailer below.