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

How was my writing?

Reviews. Love them or hate them, they’re there to help a customer make a decision on what product to buy, but nothing upsets authors more than a bad review. It’s understandable. You’ve spent hours, weeks, years on your writing and you want everyone to love it. You love it so why should anyone disagree with you? Because people are different. Nobody has the same taste. The world would be a pretty dull place if they did. So why should it be any different when it comes to your book? And yet some authors who get a bad review react like you’ve thrown acid in their face.

Not only do they attack the customer who dared to give them a low star rating, they gather their armies and send them to destroy the reviewer. If you’re an author who’s given the bad review, it could get worse. They could give your books 1* and get their army to do the same, sending your book falling down the rankings faster than a dropped piano, potentially ruining your career. All because you didn’t like their book.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We’ve read a book that has won awards and had praise heaped upon it from everyone who’s read it. It seemed everyone loved that book. Except us. Had we written a review, giving it the 2* we probably would’ve, we wouldn’t have expected a vitriolic backlash for daring to voice our opinions, because it’s something professional people shouldn’t do. Say we wrote a bad review for a microphone we bought on Amazon, we wouldn’t expect the manufacturer to attack us and get the rest of the company to start a vendetta against us, yet some authors believe this is acceptable. It’s not.

Everyone gets bad reviews. Even best-selling authors. We know we’ll get them and though we’re not looking forwards to them, we know they will happen. And we will certainly will not attack the reviewer, or incite our friends to attack them. It’s a form of bullying. Bad reviews are just part of an author’s life. Troll reviews are different. They’re written by people who have the personality of rotting fungus, who can only feel good about themselves by attacking other people.

For example, we know the way we look polarises people. We have people coming up to us in supermarkets (old ladies mostly) telling us how much they love our look. Then we get loud mouthed wankers bellowing at us how much they hate the way we look. We had seven years of being bullied for the way we look. We had two choices – continue to dress the way we do and accept that being attacked for it was just part of life, or dress completely normally and get no backlash. Guess what we did – yes, we continued to dress the way we liked and to hell with what they thought. Because it’s our right to look the way we want to look.

It’s the same with writing. If you want to publish your work and have people read it, accept that you’re going to get bad reviews. If you don’t want bad reviews, don’t publish your work. Do print on demand, give it to your family and friends and live off their adoration. But don’t attack the person who doesn’t like your work. Otherwise there could be a situation where authors are too scared to give another author a bad review, for fear of their own book being sabotaged. And that’s not the game we want to play.