Guards Guards

written by Harriet Monkhouse

Opening night of Guards! Guards! in Blackpool, starring Paul Darrow as Captain Vimes.

As attended by Sandy Douglas, Pat Fenech, Christine Lacey, Harriet Monkhouse and (a Pratchett but non-B7 fan) Susan Hall, hereinafter referred to as the Panel.

[Pause to sip some whisky in Captain Vimes's honour]

The scenario:

Paul Darrow opened yesterday evening in Guards! Guards!, a play based on the Terry Pratchett novel, in the role of Captain Vimes of the City Watch, who hauls himself out of the gutter to save as many fellow-citizens as he can from dragonfire and Death's dustpan, and [SPOILER! SPOILER!] is rewarded (apparently) by getting the girl (well, the woman) without either of them dying.

The concentrated Paul Darrow bit:

The panellist with the binoculars expressed the opinion that Mr Darrow was looking very nice. To the naked eye, he looked quite good too (who needs a full head of hair, anyway?). The panel took a highly favourable view of his shirt, boots, jerkin, long leather jacket (thought by some to recall Hellhound) and slippers (to be precise, Lady Ramkin's slippers). I don't actually remember anything wrong with his trousers, but no one cited them in particular.

Mr Darrow's acting was commendably restrained [most of the time - Ed] and relaxed; he appeared to be enjoying the part. We spotted one "Well now", followed by one Burt Lancaster ("Question is..."), two Humphrey Bogarts ("Of all the cities..." and "Here's looking at you, kid") and an extended Clint Eastwood to a punk who didn't feel lucky, which Mr Darrow delivered while wearing a rather fetching nightdress, a boot, one of Lady Ramkin's slippers and a wrist-dragon. One panellist found his playing of the drunk scene slightly unconvincing (though I enjoyed his apostrophe to the aforesaid gutter - Ed).

And in the Dress Circle Bar afterwards, he coped gracefully with the panel's editor rushing upon him with a cry of "I'm pouncing for your autograph NOW 'cos I've got to run for the last train to Manchester."

The Pratchett bit:

The panel editor's knowledge of Terry Pratchett doesn't extend very far beyond the fact that he writes lots of these books and was very nice to a friend of hers who interviewed him. But more learned members of the panel offered the following opinions:

Death's voice should have been deeper and reverberated more (though he improved after the interval).

Lance Constable Carrot was not serious enough, had an implausible accent and should NOT have had orange hair - even the programme carried a note explaining that his name referred to his body shape, not his colouring.

Lady Ramkin's posh accent could have been cranked up several notches (I've heard glass cut a lot more aristocratically).

Errol the Whittle and the big dragon met with general approval.

As did the Elucidated Brethren. (Though with the Supreme Grand Master, I kept expecting a Krantor/Servalan joke: "Grand Master - " "SUPREME Grand Master!")

Corporal Nobbs was successfully portrayed, and Dibbler quite well done.

The Librarian did an excellent job of climbing up the shelves (ah, what Robert Lindsay might have achieved in such a role!).

And I liked the Patrician, an eminently sensible tyrant. Especially his explanation that there aren't good people and bad people, just bad people, but some of them are on the other side.

The set:

I liked the set - chunks of gothicky walls endlessly rotated, swivelled, opened up, combined in different positions and bolted down within the rotating disc of the floor. I'd have loved to be assistant stage manager on this one.

Possible Blake's 7 tie-ins:

Good bit parts available for Vila (a pickpocket) and Tarrant (a young man with shiny teeth). And Deep Roy could have played virtually anyone except the dwarf.

The Verdict:

The panel's carefully considered and worded verdict:

It's funny and he's good.


Note: None of the other panellists should be held too strictly to any of the opinions expressed above, as all but one are still in Blackpool. Posted three hours and 5 minutes after the curtain call...

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Last updated on 28th of June 1998.