09.07.2013

[en] Theater play in Hanau: Eric by Sir Terry Pratchett

Wow, it is unbelievable how fast a year can pass! Yes, it's really been nearly a whole year since I attended my first theatre play by the group "Die Dramateure" in Hanau's "Hoher Landesschule" and enjoyed it very much.

Last year they played "Carpe Jugulum", with vampiyres and religion critics quite some heavy stuff but they managed to put it on stage with Pratchettian wit and ease.

In march's newsletter "Discworld Monthly" there was an announcement for a new play,  Faust Eric. Haha, I knew about it earlier though ;), there were also postings on Facebook in their group.

I'm especially happy about the fact that the former school-based theatre group has become independent and continues to play even when some of the actors have left school. Of course they still have connections to their Alma Mater, and some of the actors are still students there.

From some other Facebook postings I learnt that "Carpe Jugulum" was their second play after "Guards! Guards!" which I regrettably missed the year before last. There are slideshows for both "Eric" and "Guards" on their web site.

I hope very much that they will continue their good and successful work, be it on their school's stage or somewhere else. I have heard rumours that they are looking for a bigger stage for the next play ...

I was attending on friday night; arrived a bit early to pick up my reserved ticket and enjoy some time with the book edition which I spontaneously grabbed from my book shelf before leaving. On Facebook I read that it was nearly sold out, so I was lucky to learn about pre-reserving tickets ;)

Admittedly Faust Eric is not my favourite book but it's a good read anyway. It's from the beginning of the Discworld series and it doesn't contain as much philosophy as I credit to the recent ones (I may be wrong there to simply not spot it).

Same as last year, there was a beamer which showed some background about Discworld, introduced the actors and their roles and some of the stage technicians. I noticed some differences to the book, so I was very curious ;).

To freshen up your memory: Faust Eric is a book about Rincewind the most unsuccessful and untalented "wizzard" of the Discworld. His previous occurance was in the book "Sourcery" where he was flinged into the "dungeon dimensions" where unspeakable things happen.

Now, in Faust Eric the story continues ... We learn about what odyssey his return is, and that's literal! Sir Terry took ideas and concepts not only from Goethe's "Faust" but also from nearly all of Greek mythology, from the battle of Troy, the odyssey, the tales of Sisyphos and Prometheus and even some more.

Allegedly for casting reasons the play director, Jonas Milke, slightly changed some roles and names; the demon Vassenego became a female demon Vassenega, the demon king Astfgl received a sidekick, a secretary Theszecka, presumably to speak out loud some of what is only a mere thought in the book but is nonetheless important for the story.

I glanced a very minor mistake during the prologue in front of the curtain. This scene shows the Unseen University and the wizards trying to find out some mysterious phenomenons. As said before Faust Eric takes place some time after "Sourcery". In this book the arch chancellor is killed and his successor is "Ezrolith Churn", but in the play this is "Mustrum Ridcully". This character appears much later in the series and is the current arch chancellor (e.g. in Night Watch, Thud!, Unseen Academicals).

The costumes and dressing-up as well as the makeup were handcrafted and very detailed. The director made some advertising and teasing weeks before and I liked it very much (both the teasing and the result on stage ;) ). The costumes fit the bizarre Discworld peoples and habits very well. One of the demons, the "worm of doom", was played by an actor in a modified sleeping bag who received ovations for his amazingly fast pace.

Probably some of the guests were relatives of the actors and so for the sake of the "amateur attendees" the play included two narrators which interspersed some explanations and even some witty footnotes from the book. This is a very good idea and it worked this year equally well as last year (though it was only one narrator last year).

Music, background noise and lighting were helping to put all of the the scenes in the right mood and I liked it very much.

The story begins at Unseen University in  Ankh-Morpork where the wizards experience some strange phenomenons of bodiless voices ("oshitoshitoshit..."). Of course this is Rincewind trying to escape from the Dungeon Dimensions which reverberates and reaches the Discworld. The wizards do not want to be disturbed in their naps so they set to find out the reason for this ...





As usual in these cases they summon DEATH with the  ritual of Ashk'Ente. Obviously since DEATH is ubiquitous he knows everything about everyone.
The wizards (including the librarian) start the summoning. A nice detail is a banana which was placed on the stairs to the stage for the monape.

Without waiting for any questions DEATH states that the answer is "Rincewind". He insists that the answer is always "Rincewind" no matter the question. Rincewind is always the reason for problems ;)
DEATH's voice was slightly alienated with electronic tricks and it matched my imagination from the books how his voice should sound WHEN SPEAKING IN UPPERCASE.


Same time in Pseudopolis ... a 14-year old boy tries to summon demons with a magic circle. Due to a minor mistake it is not the demon Vassenego who crosses the magic portal to Discworld but - of course -  Rincewind. The boy Eric Thursley (right actor, here with false beard to appear older) asks Rincewind to grant him three wishes.

(note the parrot to the left. he aten't dead!)




After finding out about Eric's youth and him being called to his mother Rincewind has a very entertaining talk with the parrot. This parrot was my absolute favourite character and actor in the play. Last year she played Granny Weatherwax. Admittedly a supporting role only but a very funny and very present one. Nice costume, too!

Being a parrot she obviously is not equipped with splendid vocabulary so she has a lot of "wossnames" and when her instincts take over "Polly wants a cracker". Perfectly played, perfectly intonated bird-like voice and simply hilarious.

After Eric returns and insists on wishes being granted Rincewind mocks him that he'd only need to snap his fingers to fulfill his wishes, then he snaps with his fingers ... and away they are like magic. Noone is more surprised than Rincewind himself ;)


The travel leads them to the kingdom of  Tezuman (not ruled by an Amazonian princess). This is a very depressive people living in the Klatchian jungle waiting for the predicted arrival of a ruler. After worshipping him for a short time they intend to sacrifice him to pay back all bad luck they had to suffer in the past.

The stage set and the transportable throne of king Muzuma were very nicely built and decorated. To the very right the slightly oversized sculpture of Quezovercoatl, the founder of their religion.


In one of the pyramids Rincewind and the parrot meet a captive, Ponca da Quirm (in the book Ponce da Quirm is male, on stage she's a female seeker) on a quest for the fountain of youth. Next the "god" Quezovercoatl (which is in fact a very low and very small demon) is literally flattened by the Luggage and our (nearly) heroes can escape their fate of being flayed and sacrificed. Ponca da Quirm and the parrot part from Rincewind and Eric to continue searching for aforementioned fountain of youth.

Rincewind and Eric manage to get out of the frying pan into the fire: they happen to arrive at the time of the Tsortian war, inside the "trojan" or, more accurate, ephebian hollow wooden horse. The Tsortians are not as naive as the Trojans on Roundworld ... they move the statue inside the city but then guard it heavily and so Rincewind and Eric are captives right again. Distracted by the arrival of the Luggage they are able to escape and inadvertently open a city gate and let the Ephebians in. Very nice: the audience plays the role of the Ephebian army because the fictitious gate is set on the stage's verge. The beamer already announced this during the actors' introduction. One slide read " ... the Ephebian army: YOU" ;)
By accident Rincewind puts fire to the city and meets Lavaeolus (historically the fire was attributed to him). A bit later he learns that Lavaeolus is his ancestor (latin "Rinser of Winds"). He doesn't want to tell him about the future but assures nevertheless that Lavaeolus will finally arrive at home alive. But he doesn't tell about the duration of that travel ...
Lavaeolus actually wanted to save the kidnapped Elenor but in the meantime she got attracted to King Mausoleum of Tsort and is a sevenfold mother. Disappointed he leaves and due to Rincewind's assuring words he is even convinced that the Gods don't mean him no harm. Let's see to that ...

Rincewind and Eric continue travelling, and their next stop is the time right before the Big Bang of this universe. They meet a creator (not the creator) who is about to initiate the Big Bang and meanwhile contemplates the multitude of snow flakes. The creator was playing Igor last year and in both roles he excelled. Fabulous!

The audience could not hear the Big Bang. This was achieved by the narrators appearing with a remote control and muting the actors of the play. They delivered some more hilarious anecdotes and footnotes. Again: very nice!

Astfgl still looking for the travellers cannot watch them any more in his magic mirror so he deduces they have travelled "out of time" which leaves two places: before and after time. He sets out for the end of time but only meets DEATH there. The Luggage even overtakes him but he doesn't notice. What we already know he also realizes there and returns from the end to the beginning of time but he is too late once again: only a magic circle and some foot marks reveal that Eric and Rincewind have magicked themselves away.


They arrive at the last station of their travel: in Hell, in front of the huge Gate of Hell. The gate is guarded by a dumb two-headed demon who they pass quite easily, and inside they meet again Ponca da Quirm, who did not boil the water from the fountain of youth, her parrot, and Lavaeolus.

After some confusion we find out the plot: Vassenega had planned all this, had done the magic (not Rincewind snapping his fingers) and schemed to overturn Astfgl. She promotes and declares him "President of Hell" and moves him to a very quiet office together with his secretary Theszecka to do some more  bureaucracy without annoying the rest of hell with it. One of the other demons is quite astonished about bureaucracy: "And humans  somewhere thought this up all by themselves?  I thought we were supposed to be the ghastly ones!".

Rincewind and Eric escape unharmed and everyone was happy afterwards. The creator even cheated by inventing some quite unusual snowflakes.

The actors received long applause and well-deserved standing ovations.

(l2r: Ponca da Quirm, Tezuman citizen, Demons, Rincewind, Parrot, Theszecka, Librarian, tsortian philosopher, Moderator, Lavaeolus, Eric)

(All photos used by friendly permission of Jonas Milke, director of "Die Dramateure". Thanks!)