Duck in a Hat Theatre is the protégé of sorts of Ooook! Productions’ committed little family. Made up of mainly Durham alumni, and some current Durham students, it seems that this group couldn’t quite let their love of Terry Pratchett and theatre go.
They have taken an adaptation by Tim Foster – Duck in a Hat Theatre’s current president, and Ooook!’s founder – of Terry Pratchett’s Eric as their offering for Edinburgh fringe this year. Eric tells the story of an amateur demonologist who demands that Discworld’s most inept wizard Rincewind fulfil his three wishes: grant him immortality, infinite power, and the love of the world’s most beautiful woman. This parody of the Faust legend expectedly shows the sub-clauses and conditions of many of these wishes when they are granted, and Eric’s wishes don’t go exactly to plan.
The performance was a real visual delight. The set design featured a giant book of Eric, which was used to change the backdrop in scenes changes, by turning the pages of the book. It was really and truly beautiful, if not even a little breathtaking. It was a magical way of changing scenes. The limitations of Edinburgh fringe venues certainly make changing backdrops in this way less of an artistic choice, and more of an imperative, but it would have still been an effective set design in a less restricted venue. The lighting and sound design were also particularly effective in transporting Eric through the different landscapes of his journey.
The costumes were also extremely imaginative. They were thoughtful and creative, and whilst some were clearly made by hand, they were for the most part extremely professional. In fact, one can only wonder what other beauties the costume team could have made with an infinite budget. Aside from this, the most-loved prop amongst the audience was certainly Rincewind’s particularly pesky and many-legged suitcase.
Tim Foster’s adaptation of Eric was very funny. A good Pratchett stage adaptation will manage to encapsulate Pratchett’s individual style of satire, without making people who didn’t grow up with Pratchett feel like they are watching an hour and twenty minutes’ worth of inside jokes. Foster’s adaptation certainly achieved such an end, and was well-received by most of the audience.
However, many of the script’s best lines seemed to be lost and impaired by their delivery. Eleanor Harby (Eric) and Nick Jennings (Rincewind) in the titular roles, though sometimes funny, were a little too rigid in much of their delivery to really support some of the best parts of the script. Matt Elliot-Ripley (Ponce da Quim/Drazometh the Putrid/Corporal) and Frankie White (Eric’s Parrot/Private/Urglefloggah, Spawn of the Pit) were the standout performers. Elliot-Ripley had an unrivalled level of commitment to his roles, whilst White had a really natural way about her delivery, and her performance as Eric’s Parrot was particularly memorable.
It’s a shame that Elliot-Ripley’s direction didn’t inspire a similar energy amongst the rest of the cast. Though all were by no means shy, there was another level of animation and self-deprecating acting needed to really support Pratchett’s satire, which was only ever fully realised in Elliot-Ripley’s performances themselves.
Eric was still generally very enjoyable. A passion for Terry Pratchett may seem niche, but there are clearly enough fans roaming around to justify these stage adaptations. The queue for Eric was amongst the longest I witnessed at my time at Edinburgh fringe, and deservedly so. The clear, sheer love of Pratchett apparent throughout the cast means they certainly deserve an audience equally committed to the cause.
‘Eric’ will be running at Paradise in Augustines (Venue 152), Edinburgh, till 15 August, and then again 17-22 August. Box office: 0131-510 0119.
Photograph: Tim Foster