With five published Discworld adaptations tucked under my belt (plus the as-yet-unpublished Maskerade and the still-to-be-written Jingo), Paul Rood thought that I would be the ideal person to write a piece about how to stage the Discworld.

Well, yes and no. Yes, I've had lots of experience of adapting Terry's work for the stage and seeing productions of my plays by other groups. On the other hand, I've also seen the other people's productions of some of the other books - Lords and Ladies, Witches Abroad, The Colour of Magic/The Light Fantastic, Interesting Times - and that's shown me the main lesson about staging the Discworld. There's no single way to do it; each Director and her or his cast add their own ideas and flashes of genius. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Here, however, is the route I followed:

I think it's vital to retain Terry's humour. It's that which first attracted me to the books and it's that which I hope I manage to get across in the plays. However, you must also remember that Terry is writing a book, not a play. Many of the gags - even the favourite ones - simply won't work in a play. Sometimes, visual business can be added that makes a gag work better on stage.

Equally, it's vital not to be tempted to add your own scenes, dialogues, etc. If you aren't happy with the original text, then write your own play!

The other thing which I thought was important was not to automatically dismiss any parts of the book as unstageable. Terry's stories are populated with sixty-foot dragons, giant Kings of Fairies, flying horses, submarines... (oops - no, sorry... I didn't say that). On the stage, the best resource you have at your disposal, as the producers of the radio plays already know, is your audience's own imagination. Always be prepared to take a lateral view of any potentially impossible visual effects. For example, think of the Thunderbirds Are Go stage play where the actors run around with Thunderbirds One and Two strapped to their heads - but it works!

Perhaps the last thing I'd counsel is - pace, pace, pace. The books are fast-moving and cinemato-graphic in their scene changes. You can't do all of that on a stage, so don't allow a magnificent scene change to slow down the action. In Pratchett, the plot and the characters are far more important than the set.

In conclusion - and this is the most important thing - enjoy it. Terry's books are fun. Your cast should have fun rehearsing and staging them, because if they don't, the chances are that your audiences won't either. As the Discworld's favourite character once said:


Stephen Briggs

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August 1997