The Socratic Theatre Collective‘s Toronto Fringe Festival performance of Terry Pratchett’s Monstrous Regiment is the group’s second performance of a dramatic adaptation of a novel from Terry Pratchett‘s long-running Terry Pratchett‘s Discworld fantasy series. The success of this adaptation proves that the Collective clearly knows what they’re doing.
What has given Pratchett a devoted fanbase is his ability to take a fantasy setting, infuse its with his knowing humour and not a little wordplay, and deal with serious issues. In the novel Monstrous Regiment, the 33rd book in the Discworld series by publication, Pratchett takes a look at gender, war and cultural change generally through the person of Polly Perks.
Perks’ isolated conservative country of Borogravia has gone to war with almost all of its neighbours, taking her brother with it and so risking the future of the family pub. Desperate to find him, Polly pretends to be a man and enlists in the Borogravian army. Very soon, Polly starts to find out that not only are many of her fellow enlistees also women on their own missions, but that the war is going much more badly for Borogravia than anyone has let on. Oh, and it turns out that Perks and the rest of her so-called “Monstrous Regiment” are turning out to be much more important in the actual conflict than they’d ever imagined.
What will become of them all?
The Socratic Theatre Collective put on a very strong performance. Fans of Pratchett will be interested to know that for this performance, the troupe picked a script adapted for theatrical performance by Pratchett’s long-time collaborator Stephen Briggs. (With last year’s Fringe performance of Terry Pratchett’s Mort they also used a Briggs script.) This play is a faithful adaptation of the original novel, and as someone who read and owns a copy of Monstrous Regiment it was delightful to see a talented cast bring to life scenes I’d only imagined.
The cast was uniformly strong, but stand-out performances for me included Alex Dallas’ the bluff Sergeant Jackrum; the well-meaning but inexperienced and clumsy Lieutenant Blouse played by David Galvin Heppenstall; the multiple, very different roles successfully interpreted by Justen Bennett and Basel Daoud, and Sarah White as protagonist Polly Perks.
My only concern is with the staging. The performers made ingenious use of the space provided by the second-floor piano lounge of the Pauper’s Pub, and the pub benches provided this theatre-goer with seating that was more comfortable than I was used to. However, I don’t think that the narrow space was necessarily well-suited for theatre as I found myself craning my neck to catch the action over the shoulders of other attendees.
For fans of smart, funny fantasy, Terry Pratchett’s Monstrous Regiment is a must-see. I hope that the Socratic Theatre Collective will put on another Pratchett play for Fringe next year.
Saturday July 6 at 7:00 pm
Sunday July 7 at 2:00 pm
Friday July 12 at 7:00 pm
Saturday July 13 at 7:00 pm
Sunday July 14 at 2:00 pm.
- Individual Fringe tickets are available at the door for $10, cash only. Late comers will not be permitted.
- Advance tickets are $11 ($9 + $2 service charge) are available online at fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062 ext 1, or in person during the festival at the Festival Box Office in the parking lot behind Honest Ed’s (581 Bloor St W).
- Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows.
Poster provided by the company