I read my first Terry Pratchett novel when I was in high school, many years ago with the exact date lost to the annals of history. I do remember which one it was though: Hogfather. Completely in the middle of the Death series, but I didn’t let that bother me too much at the time: in fact, I didn’t even know much about Pratchett before reading it. I had heard the name before in passing, but had never looked too much into Discworld as a series. Probably something to do with the weird covers. And also that my teenage self was, naturally, a reader of serious (teenage) fantasy, of serious (teenage) stories, and something like Terry Pratchett was far too silly for my mature (teenage) sensibilities. I came in with little expectations beyond having to write something about the book afterwards.
Of course, that’s not exactly how it turned out. After many years and several Discworld novels, I find myself looking back and appreciating just how much that single novel I read in high school shaped my tastes in fantasy from the get go. As parodies go, the Discworld novels have always been the warmer kind, fantasy that laughs not at the cliches of the genre, but laughs with them, celebrating all the nonsense and absurdities that the fantasy genre has called its own. And while they have always had their own stories and setting, each novel Sir Terry wrote always had something more profound to say, whether it be about the nature of society to how the little wonders of life are significant in their own way. The stories were always about something, something that made them matter beyond just their humor and adventure.
So what does it mean to me, directing something originally written by Sir Terry? As my second directing job it’s a daunting task to be sure, right from day one. Not only is the play a monumental effort from everyone involved (including Steven Briggs, the playwright who adapted the novel in the first place – and did an excellent job at it too!), Terry Pratchett also has a sizable (to say the least) fanbase, and I would hate to disappoint anyone who counts themselves among them. Of course, the realities of theater are what they are and practical concerns also need to be taken into account when casting and producing. But it’s the warmth, the wit and the playfulness of Pratchett that I want to bring to the stage. In the end, if I can get the audience to laugh alongside each other and with the cast and crew, I’ll count my job as one well done. Connecting with the audience and getting them to feel with the plays I do has always been my main objective, and despite the prestigious background and unique challenges of Guards! Guards!, I find my goals to be no different.
And perhaps, in a way I’m just doing my part to carry on the legacy of that wonderful, wonderful man. As Pratchett himself said: “No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.”
Noli Timere Messorem indeed.
Janne Andsten is an amalgamation of theatrical whimsy, nerdy ideas and lists of three. In his spare time outside of theater, he can often be found searching the corners of his mind for “the next big thing”, whatever that might be. And should that fail (as it often does), there are always puns as a backup plan.