WYRD SISTERS – THE MUSICAL
WYRD SISTERS – THE MUSICAL
by Guy Turner
In 1993 I was living in Yeovil, Somerset. One evening there was ‘An Evening with Terry Practchett’ at one of the local secondary schools, and as I was already playing with the idea of adapting Wyrd Sisters as a musical, I went along.
Needless to say Terry was a most entertaining speaker, and at the end I asked him if he would consider allowing me to adapt the book. He clearly doubted that I would go through with it, but he agreed. His fee for this was one bottle of white wine and two tickets for one of the performances. The agreement was that there would be one production only, and after that any further development would have to be discussed with him and his agent.
Over the next eighteen months I worked on the adaptation. Firstly I pasted a copy of every page the book into a scrapbook and highlighted all the plot points and all the good jokes that should not be missed out. In some cases there were good jokes in scenes for which there was not room in a 150 minute show, so I had to move them to other scenes.
Once the script was done I set to writing the songs (sixteen) and incidental music, completing this by Christmas 1994.
I was working at Yeovil College, which had lots of talented 16-18 year old students and a terrific performing arts department, and, having persuaded a colleague who was an inspiration director to come on board, we managed to cast a superb team of forty or so students to take part – quite the best cast I could have hoped for. Members of the cast also took on production roles – Tomjon designed the set, and Granny Weatherwax designed the costumes. We all worked full time on the show for the first half of July 1995 and the show was staged in Yeovil College Hall from 12th to 15th July.
Terry and Lyn Pratchett came to the opening night. I met them in the carpark and as I was taking them through to the hall I mentioned that Wendy, the girl playing Granny Weatherwax, was really quite ill, but was determined not to miss performing that night. As we met the cast, Terry checked out the costumes, and, without being introduced, went straight to Wendy and said how sorry he was she was not feeling well (Wendy performed brilliantly, but went straight from that performance to hospital and an understudy played Granny for the subsequent performances.) Terry spent a lot of time chatting to all the cast, and putting up with photographs – he was very kind to all of us, and very interested in the process of adaptation and production.
As the show was done in a smallish space (with only piano, harpsichord and percussion as the band), the cast did not need to be miked up. However, we did use a microphone (with massive reverb naturally) for Death. At the end of the bows, Death crossed the stage, looked into the audience, pointed at Terry and said, ‘YOU!’ After a pause, he then introduced Terry to the audience, for his own round of applause.
This production was the only one – there was no prospect of publication, and I moved on to other projects. I still have the script and score, and the DVD is in the Practchett archive. But adapting and performing the show was one of the most enjoyable things I have done. Many of the songs have ‘escaped’ into other shows.
There is something about Wyrd Sisters – all the Discworld books are hilarious and wonderful, but as well as being the first book to become a musical, it was also the first to be adapted for radio, the first cartoon, and indeed the first of Stephen Briggs’s well known stage adaptations. Quite a record.
And meeting Terry was a real treat – fiercely intelligent, very funny, with no ego, and a genuine interest in everyone he met.
By chance (or perhaps geekiness) I discovered the little known fact that a musical had been made for Wyrd Sisters. Through a little digging, I discovered Mr. Turner’s email-address, and asked him if he was “the Guy Turner” who had written this musical. He was, and, lo and behold, Mr. Turner agreed to write about his experience. I am beyond thrilled to be able to share this with you.
A GIGANTIC thanks to Mr. Turner.