02.12.2015

[en] Mort - Terry Pratchett - theatre play in Friedberg

It's been a while since I attended the play but finally I found some minutes of spare time to write about it.

In the last weeks I've come to think about my fortunate situation: there are not one, not three, but two theatre groups playing Sir Terry Pratchett's works in my immediate vicinity where I can attend their plays within 30 minutes of driving. Isn't this incredibly lucky? Some time ago I complained that there are lots of opportunities to watch a play in UK, Ireland, Fourecks and other foreign places, but not in Germany.

Number one: I love to visit the Dramateure in Hanau once a year who do a wonderful job of entertaining me and my hunger for STP's wit and humour.

Number two: new on stage (this is a pune, or play on words) are the actors from the Heldentheater with director Andreas Arnold (who also does projects like "Poetry Slam", e.g. on 12.12.15 in Wölfersheim!). They started playing STP only this year, but having experience with other authors and plays in the past (visit their website).

I am able to be surprised and excited quite easily, but getting to read an article about a forthcoming STP play in my local newspaper one morning was exceptionally surprising and exciting (given the fact that I tend to criticize that newspaper quite often and write readers' letters frequently). 5 minutes later I had my ticket - easily reserved and ordered online.

The play would take place in a catholic community hall in Friedberg/Hessen, named after Albert Stohr, a most remarkable bishop in Mainz during WWII and until his death 1961 (be sure to read about him in Wikipedia. Sadly the english text doesn't really honour his achievements and braveness against Nazis in Germany's darkest period).

Of course all of you Pratchett-Fans know the story of "Mort". Mort(imer) is quite some luckless young man seeking and not getting any apprenticeship during the yearly county fairs until DEATH comes along and employs him.

Against all usual assumptions DEATH does not kill the people whose lifetimer has expired but he only greets them to afterlife and introduces whatever they expect for themselves. But I don't need to tell you that ;)

The actors deliver a fine piece of artwork bringing the book to life. It is abridged but you hardly notice because it still contains all of the core elements. There was a short pause, and the whole play entertained me for a bit more than 2 hours. In this time Mort prevented murder to Princess Keli, the wizard Cutwell (with one "z") became appointed "royal recognizer", Rincewind and the other wizards from Unseen University in Ankh-Morpork performed the rite of Ashk'Ente to summon DEATH who appears with an apron from Harga's ribs, Keli was crowned, the instigator of the king's murderer received his punishment, Mort fought DEATH to the death, got awarded a flip of his lifetimer and finally could embrace Ysabell.

Inbetween the actors had to deal with the usual footnote problem: STP loves to sprinkle his books with lots of them, mostly for entertainment only, but sometimes required to fully comprehend that part of the book. The "Dramateure" bring the footnote asterisk to stage quite literally: they have a speaker with a huge footnote "*" sign, the play freezes and the footnote gets told. The "Heldentheater" do it quite similarly but without the footnote sign.

This Friedberg theatre group will go regional with their play and at least until June you will have ample opportunities to watch it. You won't regret it! Read their website for schedule and locations.

The costumes are quite nice: the king looks very royal, the princess has a lot of costumes for every situation, and all of the other actors, e.g. craftsmen, innkeepers, wizards, daughters, DEATHs, look exactly as you will expect them to look.


After all of the applause and kudos (and well-earned they were!) the director - who also happened to play the wizard Cutwell - came to front and had some final words about the play and the author. He explained the difficulties between book and stage, telling a story on the back of 41 DW books, studying the english theatre version, leaving out some things, adding things back, rehearsing for 11 months, and so on. He asked the audience if anyone had read all of the DW books, and if I was not mistaken I was the only one to show up ;(. Then he continued and gave some examples of what gets lost in translation, although the german translator really tries hard, but you simply can't get every nuance in translation.

One prominent example of sacrifice in translation is DEATHs famous "there's no justice, there's just me". Of course the pun is "just" which means both of "only" and "fair". There's only one possible grammatically correct translation to german which transports the meaning of "only" but then the "fair" meaning is lost forever and the pun has gone AWOL. This is the reason I read the originals since I bought the english version of "Pyramids" in a maltese book shop during a vacation back in the 90s.