Edinburgh Fringe Fest - The Magic of Terry Pratchett
In The Magic of Terry Pratchett, author and comedian Marc Burrows explores and celebrates the life, influences, and impact of one of the greatest storytellers of all time. Endorsed by the late author’s estate, this multimedia lecture shines the light on Sir Terry Pratchett’s interesting life, works of art and the importance of his activism surrounding dementia treatment and the right-to-die.
In 2020, Marc penned the first ever biography of Sir Terry. Here, he tells Hinton about his love for the author, the responses he’s had to the book and the live show and why you don’t need to be a Pratchett superfan to enjoy it.
Would you describe the show as a tribute to Terry Pratchett?
I think that’s the perfect way to describe it. Originally, I wanted to do a live version of the biography I wrote, but there was no-way I could tell such an extraordinary life story in 50 minutes and do it justice, so the tack changed. It’s a celebration of who Terry was, of his ethos and outlook and the humour, anger and sense of wonder that powered his writing. There’s a passage in one of the books where someone describes an ancient chalk horse, etched the side of a hill. “It’s not what a horse looks like, it’s what a horse be”. And that’s how I wanted this show to feel – it’s not a description of Terry, but I’ve tried really hard to capture who was he through his work and outlook.
Is it just for Pratchett fans, or will it appeal to people who maybe aren’t familiar with his work?
It’s really accessible, I hope. I wrote it with that in mind – it had to work on multiple levels. It has to be satisfying if you're a huge fan, accessible if you’re a casual fan and intriguing if you’re a complete beginner. Believe me, I am well aware that lots of partners, parents and kids are going to be dragged along to this show by the Discworld fan in their life, and I’ve tried to always keep those people in mind too. I’m telling you about someone, so the fact you’re coming in with less knowledge of them just means you’ll discover more. That said, if you’re a fan you’re definitely going to get an extra layer out of it that someone else might not. That’s important too. That’s how Terry’s books work. There’s always an extra level for the super nerds if you know how to spot it.
What was it about Sir Terry Pratchett that made you want to write about him?
He’s been my favourite writer since I was twelve years old. I’m 42, so that’s quite a lot of reading. I knew his story was interesting, it has a really good beginning, middle and end. Act 1 - how does he become a writer, where does he come from? Act 2 - What’s being famous like? How does that affect someone? Act 3 - How do you handle terminal illness as a public figure? What does that do to someone so smart with such a well-honed sense of justice? That’s a fascinating story. Plus, he’s got a large fanbase of people who are predisposed to buying books. That’s always appealing.
What has the response been like to the book, and this show?
In almost every case it’s been extraordinary. There’s a thing with Pratchett fans - we’re a certain sort of people. We like talking about, not just the books, but the way they spin off into science and folklore and history. The book especially celebrates Terry in a very cerebral way, and I think the show captures something of the man that fans met and helps to process why he was so special. Plus, there’s the jokes. Terry was a comic writer, he was funny. Having an opportunity to be funny about him just… works. The book was really well received, it got me on the radar of the Pratchett estate who are helping develop the show. It even won a Locus science fiction award. (Best Non-Fiction, 2021). So far, the show has had a similar effect. Ultimately, we’re getting together to laugh, cry and chat about our favourite author. It’s a treat!
Would you like someone to one day write a show called The Magic of Marc Burrows?
I can think of several better titles: The Continuing Mistakes of Marc Burrows, is probably the one that would work best. I think writing about someone like Pratchett has meant I’m split in half on this question. On the one hand, I know how extraordinary someone needs to be in order to have their life turned into a story, and I don’t fit the bill. On the other hand, Terry’s writing is absolutely a celebration of the everyday, of real people, and in that sense, I think there’s a Magic Of… book that could be written about any of us.
The Magic of Terry Pratchett will be performed at 5.30pm in Gilded Balloon Teviot (Dining Room) from 2nd – 28th August (Not 14th)