What links a knight who sold over 70 million books worldwide with a market town in South Oxfordshire best known for throwing baked goods off buildings? Though the theatrical adaptations of Terry Pratchett's novels have by now been performed on every continent on earth (including Antarctica), the world premières of some twenty Discworld productions were not hosted by some world famous thousand-seater in the West End or on Broadway. Instead a 1950s-built mock-Elizabethan theatre in the ruins of an Abbey, catering to just 89 local punters a night, was the venue chosen for the inaugural theatrical performances of Pratchett's best-loved works.
Stephen Briggs of the commendable amateur Studio Theatre Club was a long term collaborator of Pratchett's, adapting twenty novels for stage, co-authoring Discworld companion books with Sir Terry, and even recording audiobook versions of Discworld classics. Such was the bond between the two writers that Ankh-Morpork's Patrician's Day public holiday is Briggs' real life birthday (6 Grune).
Abingdon's little Unicorn Theatre provided an appropriately odd and incongruous setting for Terry Pratchett's fantastical adventures to come to life, attracting die-hard fans from around the world to the persistently sold-out runs. Having attended many of STC's productions personally, Pratchett is a firm favourite in Abingdon. With the Club planning to revive Pratchett shows in Abingdon in the near future, his legacy is sure to live on locally for years to come, engaging fresher, younger audiences who have yet to discover and explore Pratchett's works for the first time (to the envy of everyone who has). Pratchett's rare ability to create a universal world that could leak off his pages and into your own town, instigating a personal world-view watershed, was wonderfully translated by Briggs, for our town and global audiences.
On a day when any reader would pause with both sadness and gratitude, we'll leave the last words to Terry Pratchett's collaborator and friend Stephen Briggs.
"I am tremendously grateful to Terry for the opportunities he has given me to change my life in ways I would never have thought possible.
It’s been masses of fun – working with Terry to design a whole city from a very brown field site, and creating an entire world map – how cool is that? We truly have, as we often used to write at book signings “Climbed ev’ry mountain and forged ev’ry stream” – we’ve “wandered each and ev’ry by way”.
I owe Terry a huge debt of gratitude. It’s a real privilege to be a part of creating even a small part of his wonderful world, and it’s something which I never take for granted.The STC has enjoyed its 25-year link with the wonderful world of Sir Terry Pratchett. We’ve loved the opportunity to stage plays based on his work. We were saddened to hear of his recent death and our thoughts are with his family and close friends.
We already have plans for future Pratchett shows - it's just a pity that Terry will no longer be there in person to see them."
Read Daily Info reviews of Pratchett stage productions below.