17.05.2016

[en] Good Omens - Die Dramateure - Theatre play by Sir Terry Pratchett

[Article in German here]

Die Dramateure have done it again - performing a book by Sir Terry Pratchett on stage!

This year they didn't choose a book from the Discworld. This year the action takes place on Roundworld - that's how our world would be called on the Discworld.

There are even more distinctions: this book is co-written by Neil Gaiman who I don't appreciate that much when on his own (I've read "Underworld" and currently am stuck in the middle of "Anansi Boys") but the cooperation with STP bore something really good. The book in question is "Ein Gutes Omen" ("Good Omens") and it still is one of my favourites. I've read it 3 or 4 times and still like it very much. Others have a fond memory but on re-reading it the shine had worn off.

STP wrote quite a number of books which do not take place on Discworld, e.g. the "Bromeliad" trilogy, the "Johnny" trilogy, or books like "Dodger", "Nation", "Strata". With "Good Omens" there's still some notable cross-over from DW - it has a DEATH character with remarkable similarity and SPEECH. In this book his companion are the other apocalyptic horseman instead of the death of rats, but nonetheless there is some SIMILARITY ;-)

Like it was in the previous years, "Die Dramateure" intentionally have a very minimalistic stage scenario which can be moved around quickly. The scenery that really is there is used quite effectively to pull us into the story.

Let me jump to the conclusion right now: I liked the play very much and enjoyed myself as good as the previous years. I wasn't sure beforehand what to expect from a play with angels and demons and the 4 bikers of the apocalypse, a hospital, a quarry and a military base but they managed to transfer the plot and tempo to stage very well.


Of course you know the story: Armageddon is about to happen and the anti-christ shall grow up between men to get prepared for his role. Aziraphale and Crowley got used to the easy life on earth and each one tries on his own to put off the final battle or even to prevent it. The final battle happens but it's different from the one that the angels and demons were expecting. It takes place on a military base where a computer virus is planned to launch nuclear missiles for world war 3.

The play starts in paradise where Crawley tempts Eva and the humans are expelled. Then we have a huge time jump of about 6000 years and watch as the anti-christ is delivered (pun intended) to a hospital driven by satanic nuns, and the multiple exchanges of babies between mothers, followed by a small time jump of about 11 years, to watch a typical, carefree children's play scene in a quarry near Lower Tadfield in a long hot summer during school holidays. We encounter the witchfinder Army, consisting of two members, one of which was just recruited, the 4 apocalyptic horsemen, Agnes Nutter, who predicted everything, her grand-(etc.)-child Anathema Device, and the final scene is at the military base where world war 3 does not start.

I especially enjoyed the identical posing during the scenes where all parties are on their way to the military base. All of them use different vehicles, cars, bikes, and a scooter, and they all act identically, mimicking the posture of driver or co-driver. Hilarious! Of course there is no real vehicle involved anywhere but it looks sooo real!

The book tells a story with multiple human and super-human protagonists, where some of the humans are approximately 11 years old. If you've read the book you have certain imaginations and it's hard to watch the play where the children of 11 are played by young adults of more or less double that age. Astonishingly it works - if you can ignore the height they play their roles pretty well and some minutes into the play they are the pack called "Them" fighting against the "Johnsonites" (which are only mentioned but do not appear).

All of the actors were very relaxed. I liked the postman very much who was a minor role performed by director Jonas Milke. His appearances are short but important nonetheless: he posts the weapons and tools to the apocalyptic horsemen.

Of course the play is abridged when compared to the book, but the spirit of the story is fully there: to stay true to one's self and do the right thing even if someone is demanding something else that you don't want to do.

I missed "Dog", Adam's hell hound, but only a bit. He was mentioned by the actors but never appeared. In earlier plays there really was a puppet for the animal role (e.g. Igor had a stitched-up dog "Thcrapth" in "Carpe Jugulum"). Since the dog doesn't have a major role in the book it's not a big loss.

There was another detail which had to be updated: the book talks about cassettes which automagically turn into "Best of Queen". In the play they changed that to CDs insteads of cassettes. I think this makes sense - lots of younger people wouldn't recognize an MC or know how to use it.

Here are some photos from the play:
(shot and published with permission by Jonas Milke)


The paradise, Crawley (later Crowley) tempts Eva. Aziraphale has to expel the humans but lends them his flaming sword because "it's so cold outside and she's expecting, you know".

Crowley receives the baby that's expected to start Armageddon. You really notice that he got used to life on earth and is annoyed that the other demons do not understand "thinking big" to make thousands swear when the mobile phone network fails or there's a traffic jam. Of course there's Queen background music when he arrives ;)


In the hospital driven by satanic nuns the baby should be exchanged to the american ambassadorial family to make sure the anti-christ grows in a family with influence and power. The nuns are quite dumb and exchange the baby multiple times. This results in the baby growing up in an extremely average english family.

Aziraphale and Crowley notice they both don' want Armageddon to come.
Crowley still plays Queen in his car ;-)

Adam Young and his pack, Brian, Pepper and Wensleydale, enjoy their school holidays and speculate in the wild about aliens, robots and tibetan monks who can travel everywhere on earth by subterranean tunnels to listen to every conversation everywhere.
Adam doesn't know right now that he's got the power to make his wishes come true.

Anathema Device tries to verify another one of Agnes Nutter's premonitions who predicted "carriages without horses" hundreds of years ago.










During the break robots and tibetan monks distributed warnings to end pollution.

This follows the Dramateure's tradition of giving a hand-out to their guests - in the past years these were issues of the "Ankh-Morpork Times", this year a flyer to be more careful to Mother Earth.




Witchfinder private Newt and professional ancestor Anathema read more predictions and notice that  Agnes even predicted sex between them - but only once because time runs out and they have to leave for the military base.

The 4 horsemen of the apocalypse (pollution, death, war and famine) and the self-nominated 5th (in the book another pack of 4) horseman for "non-alcoholic beer" are on their way to the same location. The 5th horseman receives a Darwin Award by dying in a very dumb way.

Crowley is heading there, too, in his Bentley.

... and Witch finder Seargant Shadwell with Madame Tracy on her scooter.

Anathema and Newt got the interpretation right on Agnes's predictions and head to the mililtary base, too.

As do Adam and the "Them" on their bikes. Adam has realized that he doesn't want to be a tool to mass destruction and genocide, especially not if his own little home town is affected by this, too.

Adam and the "Them" fight against the 4 horsemen with sword, scales and crown. Obviously you can't win against death, but that was to be expected. Death does not fight at all, he simply retreats.

Adam talks about destination and personal strife for luck.









 



Applause was again long and well-earned. Kudos from me too for this year's play.











I'm absolutely looking forward to the choice of STP's book for next year's stage appearance.