The Amazing Maurice

Since we first heard of Monstrous Productions a few years ago, we have been to every play. This year, we were faced with the unpleasant realization that we were going to miss one, due to being in Doncaster for Digicon. Fortunately, director Amy Davies kindly spared us the sadness of missing their latest play by allowing us to come to the tech run, as we’ve been part of the company when we played the snake twins in Witches Abroad.

And we’re so grateful for that or we would have missed a fantastic play.

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents follows streetwise tomcat Maurice and his educated rat friends. They’re educated due to eating magic-tainted waste thrown out by the Unseen University. This has allowed them to think and speak and develop a love of stories. Every town in Discworld knows that the best way to get rid of rats is to hire a piper who leads them to a river. (Don’t tell anyone rats can swim.) So Maurice has come up with a plan to make money – the rats invade a town, gnaw on wood, widdle on food and generally behave like the uneducated rats. Then Maurice found a stupid looking kid – Keith – who can play the pipe. He leads the rats out of town and collects the money, which Maurice looks after.

Then they visit the town of Bad Blintz and their plan is discovered by a young, story-loving girl, Malicia, who is convinced that everything has a plot – including life. And there’s the slight problem of other rat catchers being in town who capture rats not to kill them, but to make them fight terriers. Darktan, played by Josh Stevenson-Hoar, is military minded and organises the rats into three camps: Widdlers, Trap Experts and Food Destroyers. Their mission is to cause as much chaos as possible. One rat, Peaches, is obsessed with a story called Mr Bunnsy Has An Adventure and believes it’s real. She uses it as a guide and carries it everywhere she goes. Hamnpork is old and grumpy and convinced Darktan is trying to take over as leader. He is captured by the ratcatchers and put in the terrier ring but Darktan abseils down to rescue him and fights off the dog himself. The rats get their names from food tins and packages.

Then of course, the real Piper shows up. He’s paid far more money than Maurice and his educated rodents are. Keith challenges him to a pipe-off. Sardines, the tap dancing rat, dances for Keith. No rats respond to the Piper as they have cotton wool in their ears. Keith is then given the job as the town’s Piper.

Maurice was played fantastically by Matthew Hitchman. Being owners of 5 cats (12 in our lifetime) we can say that his was a very realistic portrayal of a cat. Becca Smithers, who played Malicia did a great job of being an overenthusiastic know-it-all. All of the actors played their parts brilliantly and it was nice seeing new faces as well as the regular cast. There wasn’t a single bad performance and the actors’ enjoyment of their roles really shows.

The set and props were the most ambitious yet, with shed walls for the rat catchers’ hut and a white screen with shadow puppets for the fighting ring. Clever lighting was used to represent a man hole cover in the sewers. There was also a brilliant use of red lighting and a scary voice recording for the King Rat to show it in Maurice and the rats’ minds. It added a chilling element to what was otherwise, a very funny play. There was also an excellently choreographed fight scene between Maurice and several of King Rat’s minions, which resulted in the deaths of Maurice and Dangerous Beans. But Maurice behaves very un-cat like when he trades one of his lives for Dangerous Beans’s and both are returned to life.

We’ve never read Maurice so had no idea what to expect. We loved it, and now we need to read the book. It shows that you don’t have to have read anything by Pratchett to be able to enjoy the plays Monstrous Productions put on. The acting, sets and behind the scenes work cannot be faulted. It’s clear from the actors’ performances how much they love the plays. Monstrous Productions outdo themselves with each one, which isn’t an easy feat. We hope there will be many more plays and can’t wait for the next one.

Cast

Maurice – Matthew Hitchman

Keith – Ben Harder-Allen

Malicia – Becca Smithers

Darktan – Josh Stevenson-Hoar

Peaches – Sarah Roberts

Dangerous Beans – Josh Flynn

Sardines – Asher Townsend

Hamnpork – Harry Spencer

Ron – Tony Beard

Bill – Jamie Gibbs

Nourishing – Katya Moskvina

Mayor – Terrance Edwards

Delicious – Ellen Warren

Feedsfour – Loz Shanahan

Special Offer – Davina Darmanin

Bitesize – Sarah Burrow

Kidney – Jasmine Iskasson

InBrine – Isabelle Burman

Piper – Michael Dickinson-Smith

Agent – Gavin Rea-Davies

Sergeant – John Simpson

Gary – Paul Woolley

Nigel – John Dent

Death & mask maker – Matt Burnett

KeeKee – Nick Dunn

Eric

Last night was the closing night of Monstrous Productions’ Eric. We’ve gone to every play since Mort (still gutted we didn’t know about Monstrous Regiment and Carpe Juggulum before that) and we weren’t going to miss this one. We’ve never read Eric so had no idea what to expect. And we loved every single second of it. The moment Death appeared, we clapped with excitement. He had blue pinprick lights in his eyes! Exactly like in the book! Matthew Burnett, who played him, not only was fantastic in the role, but he made the mask, eye lights and hands himself. The play was hilarious. And just when thought it couldn’t get better…they made Luggage! We admit, we did squeal and clap like overexcited sea lions when Luggage trundled on stage. We may have even declared “Oh my god! Luggage!” and then Tweeted about it. Even better, Luggage chased people and ate them (complete with chomping sound effects), which was just perfect. Luggage was designed by Joe Davey and built by Tony Beard and Emma Paines. Tony also controlled it. As much as Luggage can be controlled.

Eric is about a 13 year-old-boy who tries to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps by summoning a demon. Except he accidentally summons a wizard, Rincewind, who’s been trapped in the dungeon dimensions. He asks for three wishes: to be ruler of the world, to be immortal and have the most beautiful woman in the world fall in love with him. Unfortunately, Rincewind is the most incompetent wizard on Discworld. And he comes with a psychotic suitcase – Luggage. Luggage will fold your clothes if you throw them in. And eat anyone who threatens Rincewind. What more could you want from a travel accessory? (Providing it’s within airport length and weight allowances.)

Rincewind tries proving he’s not a demon by clicking his fingers. And transporting him, Eric and Eric’s parrot (brilliantly played by Zoe Azzopardi and made by Zoe and Ruby Azzopardi) to a jungle filled with a cannibalistic tribe. When we saw the parrot in the cast list, we wondered how this would be done but Zoe and the parrot were definite scene stealers!

As always, the cast and crew were amazing. So much goes into every play. The make-up was brilliant and we loved the giant book in the background, with scenes fabulously painted on the pages. Nick Dunn was fantastic as Rincewind. Rincewind isn’t usually popular among Pratchett fans but we’ve always loved him and Luggage. He was the first character we met when we started reading the Discworld novels. And it was strange to see a play where Nick didn’t die! (He is an expert at dying). Though he did go to Hell, so that counts. And Loz Shanahan was superb as Lavaeolus, who would prefer to build large wooden horses and find tunnels than kill someone in battle. Neil Chappell played a sulky thirteen year old boy very convincingly!

We particularly enjoyed the scenes set in Hell, which had lift music, voices over the tannoy system, and every torture was accompanied by a reading of health and safety regulations, complete with sub-clauses that ran into several volumes – that’s more terrifying than pitchforks and hellfire. Gone are the days where a man could just push a boulder up a hill as one of Hell’s tourist attractions. Edward Duke was excellent as Demon King Astfgl.

And even better – Monstrous Productions have now raised £18,000 for Alzheimer charities! So not only are the plays amazing, they’re for a good cause. If you haven’t seen any yet, please go. You will not regret it. You don’t even have to have read any Pratchett books to enjoy them. We can’t wait to see Going Postal in August.

Cast:

Rincewind – Nick Dunn

Eric- Neil Chappell

Astfgl – Edward Duke

Parrot – Zoe Azzopardi

Lavaeolus – Loz Shanahan

Da Quirm – Matthew Hitchman

Head Tezuman – Matthew Fisher

Death – Matthew Burnett

Azaremoth – Harry Spencer

Tsortean Captain – Terrance Edwards

Duke Vassenego – Jamie Gibbs

Urglefloggah – Ellen Warren

Drazometh – Pete Belson

Vizzimuth – Ben Wilson

The Creator – Katya Moskvina

Various – Howard Dickens

Archchancellor – Sam Steele

Quezovercoatl – John Dent

Bursar – Callum Robets

Various – John Simpson

Elenor – Sarrah Burrow

Ephebian – Matthew Thomas Edwards

Sissyfussy – Richard McReynolds

The Dean – Dan Collins

Tezuman – Luke Belson

Child – Lowri Belson

Private Archeios – Alastair Babington