Midland Players’ Guards! Guards! – Sheffield University Drama Studio, 15 February 2024 

Review by Jacob Bush.
Midland Players, never one to avoid a challenge, have chosen to stage Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! as their spring production this year. The company have done a good job at bringing to life what could be an epic fantastic on a more limited budget in a fairly small venue. 

The company have added a series of short scenes before the play officially begins to provide an insight into Ankh-Morpork, a city on Discworld, where the action takes place. As someone who has never read any Terry Pratchett books, these were certainly a helpful introduction to the rules and norms of this society. 

The play itself tells the story of what happens when a coven of supposed Brothers summons a dragon to the city. We follow the city’s somewhat unconventional team of guards, the closest the city has to a police force, as they do everything they can to get to the bottom of the many dragon related incidents that have occurred after no dragons (beyond the household pet type!) have been seen in many years. 

Tony Kennick directs the show, assisted by Elliott Dale-Hughes, and brings to life the multiple locations well. The duo creatively come up with ways to depict the huge dragon whilst it never appears on stage. Whilst the show feels a little slow to begin with, it becomes engaging and intriguing once the several storylines converge to focus on one main plot. 

Leading the large ensemble cast (potentially a little too large – it can sometimes be hard to keep up with who is who) is Christopher Paul as Lance Constable Carrot. He is a warm and likeable protagonist, who the audience can find very relatable as he struggles to get his head around the bizarre ways in which the law is or is not enforced in the city. He has a lovely rapport with Rach Howard, who plays his father, even if we don’t get see them share many scenes. The remaining guards are portrayed by Elliott Dale-Hughes (Captain Vimes), Phil Ashton (Sergeant Colon) and Hal Grayson (Corporal Nobby Nobbs). The quartet of guards have a wonderful rapport and are great fun to watch. 

Megan Roberts takes on the role of Lupine Wonse, giving a wonderful performance. She does a great job at adding real threat to the proceedings, whilst not giving too much of the plot away too soon, and never verging too much on panto villain with her characterisation. The other Brothers, part of the coven of religious men come witches, are played by Joe Otten, Sue Jamison-Powell, Alison Brelsford, Will Brelsford and Heather Sawrey. They add some much needed humour to the proceedings and it’s entertaining to see them rile up with Roberts as Lupine Wonse. 

Other strong performances are found within the supporting cast. Corrie Houton is excellent as Lady Sybil Rankin, a highlight of the production. She builds a great on stage chemistry with Dale-Hughes, which unfortunately is a relationship that doesn’t get explored as much as it should be. Samantha Oldham has a great stage presence as the authoritative Patrician, the ruler of the city. Ruth Jepson is good fun as The Footnote, almost a narrator-type figure, giving us context and background to the events as they unfold. 

Guards! Guards! is a play that really comes into its own in the second act as the stakes are raised. It is an intriguing fantastical story, brought to life as well as possible within the constraints that the Midland Players have. 

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