Jingo is a stage adaptation, by Stephen Briggs, of one of the Discworld novels by the late Terry Pratchett. There are millions of enthusiasts for the works of Terry Pratchett but I came to this play as a complete Pratchett virgin, having never read any of them. Interestingly, the opening night audience was split between people like me, with little or no knowledge of Discworld, and at least one Pratchett enthusiast who had travelled all the way from Wincanton to see this show. Whether or not it bears any resemblance to the 1997 novel by the late lamented author, let me assure those who are unfamiliar that no prior knowledge is required to enjoy this show: the timeless plot, its humour and its political tensions, with a few 20th-century additions, could equally well have been devised by Shakespeare or even Homer.
The play opens as the island of Leshp, which has been submerged under the Circle Sea for centuries, rises to the surface. Its position, exactly halfway between the city state of Ankh-Morpork and the desert land of Klatch, makes the island a powerful strategic point for whoever lays claim to it – and the struggle between the two powers for the rights to the island forms the context of the play.
The director, Steve O’Neill, has performed miracles to put this show on an amateur provincial stage with a small cast. He makes effective use of video projection to set the scene between the Circle Sea, the palace at Ankh-Morpork, a dockside in Klatch or the desert (to name but four locations). Equally effective use of a soundtrack of footsteps, battle sounds, crowd noises, seagulls, submarine sounds, offstage voices and the device in which members of the cast describe an action that their characters are witnessing in the distance (there is probably a posh term for this but I don’t know it) move the show along.
Most of the cast are playing two, three, four or even five parts each, but they are all so very good that we largely don’t notice – and that also happens in Shakespeare anyway. There are no weak links, but I noted particularly strong performances from Peter Bennett as Vimes and Simon Langford as Lord Vetinari.
The standard of costume, props and set is very high. The costumes are credited to ‘The Company’, but the programme also gives a credit to Chris Donaldson for the ‘Watch Helmets’ and they are very good indeed. The wigs and the variety of facial hair are also well done, although no make-up artist is credited. I love the submarine, credited to Clemency Bunn, particularly the pedals and the speaking tube (bean can), which drops down – lots of humour there.
The lighting in the Ankh-Morpork scenes is a bit inconsistent, with some characters lit and others with their heads in darkness, and that can be fixed, but the rather over-long procedural denouement and reconciliation scene in the second act between Vimes and Ahmed is, I suppose, essential to the plot. Chris Bunn needs to decide whether he is going to wear his spectacles or not – I suspect that he left them on by accident in two scenes as Lord Rust.
Overall, the show is a triumph and a tour-de-force by this obviously experienced and well-rehearsed company. I hope that it lived up to the expectations of the man from Wincanton; it certainly went down well with the rest of the good opening night audience, including me. It would have been Terry Pratchett’s 70th birthday on Saturday and this show is a worthy tribute.
It runs again on 27 April at 7.45 and twice on the 28th at 2.45 and 7.45.