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Show type: Tour
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show - Live!
From the saga that changed Life, The Universe and Everything: The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Starring Simon Jones as Arthur Dent, Geoff McGivern as Ford Prefect, Susan Sheridan as Trillian, Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod Beeblebrox and The Voice of Stephen Moore as Marvin the Paranoid Android
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy became an instant classic on its launch as a radio series. Now Douglas Adams's immortal creation explodes back into life, re-born in this ground-breaking new stage production - a radio show like you never saw before - in surround sound, packed with laughter, robots, really wild sound effects and drinks with extremely silly names.
The legendary radio and TV cast are re-united for these live performances, led by Simon Jones as Arthur Dent, bringing to life the characters written for them in highlights from the entire Hitchhiker's saga. They are joined on stage by a series of VIP guest voices of the book and supporting actors from Hitchhikers in all its phases.
Directed by Dirk Maggs, Douglas Adams's choice to conclude the narrative in its original medium, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show - Live! is an adventure which will introduce newcomers of all ages to Vogons, Babel Fish, Marvin the Paranoid Android and allow them to explore the unique and hilarious whole general mish mash according to Douglas Adams.
Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy Radio Show – Live On Stage
With the news of another incarnation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, you might be forgiven for thinking like a bowl of petunias: Oh no, not again.
But then there’s a good reason this franchise is forever being revisited. The enticing combination of Douglas Adams’ unmistakably droll wit and the majestically bonekrs universe he created is a potently attractive prospect – and catnip to geeks.
Adams, the arch-perfectionist, himself rewrote and expanded upon his seminal work for every media – taking the original radio series, adapting it for TV, spawning an ‘increasingly inaccurately named’ trilogy of five books, working it up as video game treatments and movie plots, Hollywood finally got to making its own version in 2005, which was a reasonable enough interpretation -– but could never live up to the memories of the original.
A similar fate befalls this stage treatment, which gets slightly hamstrung by the compromise of sticking to the familiar, which nostalgic fans would expect, while simultaneously trying to offer something a little different.
In many ways, this is back to basics – the only conceivable way to stage a story that leaps both galaxies and logic. It stars the original Radio 4 cast – minus, of course, the much-missed voice of the book, Peter Jones – and is presented in just the same way as those original 1978 shows were recorded, with actors and scripts behind stationary microphones.
Sound effects are created by inventive foley artists and their bench full of household objects; while a rock band led by comic-musician Philip Pope and creatively designed screen allow further scene-setting in a nifty bit of stage design. One let-down is the graphics from The Guide itself. Even the primitive Ceefax-era technology of the TV series had more charm than this bald text and clunky icons.
The voice of the book is filled by a small pool of guest stars over the course of the tour. Tonight, it’s Clive Anderson, a contemporary of Adams who puts a fleck of his own wit into the night. But his unfamiliarity with the script he reads, Jackanory-style from a sumptuous leather armchair, means some sections have awkwardly stilted phrasing.
The core cast, on the other hand have spent half their lives with these characters and Geoff McGivern, Simon Jones, Mark Wing-Davey and Susan Sheridan are instantly identifiable as Ford Prefect, Arthur Dent, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Trillian. Nothetheless, they are out-acted by a door. The personality the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation – and the enjoyably over-the-top supporting actor Toby Longworth who voices them – gives them a lasciviously suggestive camp that easily steals laughs.
It is part of the pantomime spirit producers have injected. Cheap laminated cards instruct the audience to cheer and applaud on cue, though they need little prompting; the comedian entertaining diners at the Restaurant At The End Of The Universe works the crowd like a slick, cheesy old pro – complete with rim-shots on the drums to underline his corny punhclines; while a couple of audience singalongs have parachuted into the story.
Even the delightful Marvin – a full-size puppet robot made from mechanical scraps and voiced by Stephen Moore – gets a solo number, full of his usual joys of creation.
Director Dirk Maggs, who seems to have forged a career working on Adams’s legacy, might have picked up a trick or two from Spamalot in converting a comedy cult to stage. The main lessons appear to be: play up the gang-show spirit, and once you’ve covered the key scenes fans would expect, you don’t have to stick too closely to an established narrative. It’s not exactly in keeping with Adams’s drier, more erudite wit… but it is more showbiz.
So this story starts, as it should, with the demolition of Dent’s house, and planet. Then we race through the infinitely improbably story of Vogon poetry, Pan-Galactic Gargle-Blasters, Babel Fish and Slartibartfast and his fiddly fjords that forms the basis of the Hitchhiker’s world.
Things get a bit weirder than even this after the break, when you might need a brain the size of a planet to follow all that goes on. All manner of improbabilities, tangled timelines and eddies in the space-time continuum are evoked to jump around the universe, including, of course, the restaurant at the end of it.
Here Maggs has plundered some of the later Hitchhiker books, which only the most devout H2G2 geek is probably aware, and although the result is more than a little confusing, it does mean there are surprises in the plot, if you can follow it. Key to this seems to be a way of incorporating Dent’s accidental nemesis, the multiply-reincarnated Agrajag, as there are tapes of Adams himself speaking the lines that can be called into service here.
Fans of the froodiest guide ever to have come out of the publishing houses of Ursa Minor will need no encouragement to see this. More casual observers might wonder quite what all the fuss is about, but can’t fail to be amused by Adams’s most pithy, offbeat observations.
|Date of live review: Thursday 28th Jun, '12|
Review by Steve Bennett
I saw this show with Phil Jupitus. I thought the production was excellent. As one of the youngest people in the audience, I may have played the radio series FITs a few hundred times less than those sitting around me, hence I was laughing loads whereas I think many there were smiling and acknowledging the jokes they knew. The guest speaker is always going to be the clunkiest person, because they are doing straight reading like you do these days in radio. The graphics were fine I thought, mind, I bet you still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.
Where was I criticising the old TV graphics? My point is that with all the technology available today, the stage production couldn't come close to the brilliantly memorable animations of the 80s
Is it poor form or sheer ignorance to knock the so-called "Ceefax-era" graphics of the TV show? Yes, they're of their time, but they won worthily a BAFTA courtesy of Ron Lord's efforts. All beautifully-animated and still-unmatched in terms of imagination and ingenuity.
The original "Ceefax-era" graphics were animated, so the graphics still stand up in a way that, for example, the Money for Nothing video doesn't. Now, where's that catnip...