Presented by Unseen Theatre Company
Reviewed Friday 17 September 2010 (preview performance)
Venue: Bakehouse Theatre, Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: continues Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm until 2 Oct 2010
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
Tickets: Adult $18, Conc $15, Groups (of 10+) $14, Fringe Benefits $14
Bookings: www.bakehousetheatre.com or by phone 8227 0550
Terry Pratchett’s subversive ability to turn real life on its head through his fantasy series of Discworld novels remains timely even when, in this instance, his novel, Monstrous Regiment, is born from the essay “The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women” by 16th Century Protestant Reformer, John Knox.
Knox believed that women are “weak, pale, impatient, feeble, foolish, inconsonant, variable, cruel and lacking the spirit of counsel and regiment“, and it is this outdated mode of thinking in today’s society that continues to prevent women from fighting on the front line in our armed services.
Pamela Munt has adapted Stephen Briggs’s stage script of the novel, and it is timely given that Australia now has its first female Prime Minister. Love her or hate her, Julia Gillard has broken the back of what was once very firmly a ‘boys only’ club, just as Pratchett’s female characters have infiltrated the male-dominated armed forces of the Discworld.
The plot of Monstrous Regiment centres on Polly Perks, who disguises herself as a male to join the army and search for her brother, lost in battle. Her regiment proves to be more ‘monstrous’ than anticipated with a troll and vampire adding to the troupe of predominantly females-in-disguise. When they discover they are the last men standing in a losing battle, their resourcefulness and determination shows them to have more balls and nous than their male counterparts.
This is by far one of Unseen Theatre’s tightest productions, with most set changes occurring in the dark during other scenes. For the most part, it keeps things moving at a decent pace, but unfortunately it also causes a number of masking problems when the cast are occasionally limited to a small area of the stage.
Kudos to the efficient backstage crew however, who are as quiet and unobtrusive as possible when sharing the stage.
Kahlia Tutty plays Polly and is a delight to watch as the only actor who progresses her character from unconvincingly pretending to be a guy to adopting her masculine persona naturally. It is the kind of subtle journey most of the women should have taken.
David Geddes steals the light as the troll Carborundum, a comically dense creature made of boulders. Geddes shows great intuition and timing, but needs to be careful not to upstage those who should have the audience’s attention. As a first year drama student at Flinders University, it’s a necessary skill that he will undoubtedly perfect in time.
Kristofa Cassono is nicely understated as the coffee-addicted Vampire Maladict, unlike his second character, the goggle-eyed watcher Clarence, whose facial expressions are laugh-out-loud funny.
Unseen Theatre stalwart Philip Lineton successfully reprises his role of an Igor manservant, only this time with a twist, and doubles as nasty Prince Heinrich, showing his versatility.
The rest of the ensemble varies in experience, but fans of Unseen will undoubtedly enjoy their cross-dressing antics under the co-direction of Pamela Munt and David Dyte.
Lighting and sound cues by Stephen Dean should improve greatly as the season commences beyond previews.
One for the Pratchett fans.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis, Performing Arts Critic, Glam Adelaide.