The Bloomsbury Theatre is only the second venue where Marc Burrows, author, critic, and musician has presented his talk on The Magic of Terry Pratchett. The first was at the Edinburgh Fringe in August 2023, which was well received. Burrows wrote an award-winning biography – and the first, he makes a point to say – of Sir Terry Pratchett.
Burrows has a background in stand-up comedy, and his narration of Pratchett’s life and work is delivered in this comedic style, as he braves the fans. He tells us the book was published in 2020, five years after Pratchett’s death in April 2015. “No! March!” one fan cried out in righteous indignation. They are told to keep quiet and Burrows carries on, albeit with the correction to his presentation, which displays brilliant comic timing and improvisation. Having read the Discworld series and Good Omens, I believed I was a fan… but I was wrong. We (mostly I) are educated in the correct order of reading the Discworld Series, i.e. starting with Mort, which is actually the fourth book in the series of forty-one novels! This fact generated unanimous knowing laughs from the audience. So why Mort? It is said that this book is where Pratchett first discovered the joy of plot, and where his writing style developed, so he himself recommended beginning here.
The narration is engaging, lively, and full of puns. “That’s a big clock,” Burrows says pointing towards an AI image of the trousers of time (you had to be there). It is also educational. Did you know that Pratchett is the most shoplifted author in Britain? But the biggest takeaway from this is the inspirational messages that Pratchett continues to impart even from beyond the grave: “Change the story, change the world.”
His work has often been criticised by the media, perhaps simply out of snobbery of genre fiction or perhaps from a lack of imagination, tolerance, and acceptance. Pratchett was a champion of the underdog, hated bullies, and believed in writing your own story. He was told as a child by teachers that he would never amount to anything, simply because of his birth and family background. This did not cower him. Instead, he chose to be the master of his fate and his words encourage us all to do so.
There were a few (three) audience members who had not heard of Terry Pratchett (gasp) let alone read his books (double gasp), and they were singled out by Burrows and given one of Pratchett’s books as a gift. A lovely thought, to which he added “Can I ask a favour from you?” and we held our breath. “Once you’ve read the book, all I ask in return is that you leave it somewhere, anywhere for someone else to pick up and read.” A beautiful idea.
The Q&A in the second half was split between an on-stage interview followed by opening it out to the audience. It may have been better to limit the Q&A to the audience, as the interview felt too scripted, indulgent, and lengthy, particularly as the show’s first half ran over by twenty minutes – not that we felt the time run on in the first half, but it was evident in the second. Regardless, we come away seeing the multifaceted and magical personality of Pratchett, and his passion for change for a better and kinder world.
This is an inspirational talk, for fans and non-fans alike. What’s better than to come away with the powerful resonation of Pratchett’s words: “Change the story, change the world”
Now that is magic!
Written and Performed by: Marc Burrows
The Magic of Terry Pratchett played at the Bloomsbury Theatre for one performance only. It will be on tour in 2024. Further information on locations and dates can be found here.