Review – The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Radio Show Live!

September 28, 2013 | By | Reply More

✭✭✭✩✩   Fun for fans

Simon Jones as Arthur Dent. Photo © James Bullimore

Simon Jones as Arthur Dent. Photo © James Bullimore

Edinburgh Playhouse
Friday 27 September 2013
Review by Hugh Simpson

Perennial cult favourite, Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, provides an enjoyable night out for fans in the touring production at the Playhouse.

The story of how Arthur Dent is rescued from the destruction of Earth by his friend Ford Prefect (who comes from a small planet near Betelgeuse, and not Guildford after all) has been told across a variety of media since its 1978 radio debut, with their subsequent adventures changing to a greater or lesser degree each time.

This production, in an adaptation by director Dirk Maggs, very much harks back to the original radio series, featuring a number of the original cast and being specifically set up as a ‘radio production on stage,’ with the actors performing at a row of mikes with scripts in hand.

In order to provide a more visual experience, there is also a live band and a light show, both of which seemed calculated to appeal to the large proportion of the audience who were very much around in 1978. The strength of feeling from that audience towards the show is evident from the arrival on stage of Simon Jones and Geoff McGivern, the original Arthur and Ford.

Despite looking considerably older, they soon manage to roll back the years. Jones, in particular, is utterly convincing. As the role was originally written for him, this is perhaps not surprising, but he could be forgiven for being a little resentful at still appearing clad in that familiar dressing gown so many years on, or for simply going through the motions. However, there is no hint of this from any of the cast, who seem to be having at least as much fun as the audience.

The other actors all rise to the task – the Now Show’s Mitch Benn, as befits a seasoned radio performer, is vocally impressive as the two-headed Galactic President Zaphod Beeblebrox, while the other performers throw themselves into a variety of roles with gusto. Susan Sheridan, the third original cast member on stage, is effective as Trillian, despite a rather underwritten role; a valid criticism that has been levelled at the original programme is its rather ‘blokeish’ nature.

A familiar and much-adored piece
Breakfast at Milliways. Photo © James Bullimore

Breakfast at Milliways. Photo © James Bullimore

The show’s biggest attraction – that it is such a familiar and much-adored piece – is also its biggest drawback, and means that it falls between two stools to a certain extent. The adaptation needs to provide the ‘greatest hits’ the fans want while still having a coherent structure, and this is not always successful.

The role of the Book, the show’s narrator, is performed by a variety of guest stars throughout the tour – on this occasion Miriam Margolyes. There can be no denying the quality of her performance, but it is still impossible to hear her without the voice of Peter Jones (the original Book, in one of the all-time great radio performances) straying into your head. She is most impressive when straying farthest from the original, notably when indulging in her trademark facility for accents.

This is also true of the rest of the production; Toby Longworth is particularly good as the planet designer Slartibartfast precisely because he does it very much as himself rather than as a recreation of the original. Not surprisingly, the first half, which is a faithful recreation of much of the original series, shows a great deal of reverence – perhaps too much. The second half, which is drawn from a variety of later sources, is more unexpected, but less coherent, and features too many unremarkable musical numbers. The whole show, moreover, requires some familiarity with the original sources – too little is left unexplained for the neophyte.

The ‘radio show’ basis of the show can be a little frustrating at times – more could be made of the effects, both sound and visual. The depiction of Marvin, the original paranoid android, voiced once again by Stephen Moore and obviously the favourite of the audience, is achieved by some apparently effortless puppetry which is not equalled by some of the other onstage movement.

Overall, these shortcomings do not detract too greatly from what is essentially a well-performed production of excellent source material. It is probably not for total newcomers to the world of H2G2, who could find it baffling and unsatisfactory. It is heartily recommended to fans, however, as the sheer nostalgic joy provided is the theatrical equivalent of a big warm hug.

Running time: 2 hrs 30 mins

Run ended
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Radio Show Live! website: www.hitchhikerslive.com/

What’s it all about? Buy the complete original radio series of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to find out! (click on the image to purchase from Amazon)

Also available in other formats – Douglas Adams’ books, TV series, film, record and, of course, a towel.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Radio Show Live! on tour:

28 Sep Grimsby
Auditorium
Voice of the Book: Phill Jupitus Book online
29 Sep Ipswich
Regent
Voice of the Book: Miriam Margolyes Book online
1 Oct Aylesbury
Waterside Theatre
Voice of the Book: Clive Anderson Book online
2 Oct Birmingham
New Alexandra Theatre
Voice of the Book: John Challis Book online
3 Oct Malvern
Forum Theatre
Voice of the Book: John Challis Book online
4 Oct Cambridge
Corn Exchange
Voice of the Book: John Challis Book online
5 Oct Billingham
Forum Theatre
Voice of the Book: John Challis Book online
7 Oct Sheffield
City Hall
Voice of the Book: Danny John-Jules Book online
8 Oct Manchester
Opera House
Voice of the Book: Danny John-Jules Book online
9 Oct Manchester
Opera House
Voice of the Book: Shappi Khorsandi Book online
10 Oct Bradford
St George’s Hall
Voice of the Book: Graeme Garden Book online
11 Oct Rhyl
Pavilion Theatre
Voice of the Book: John Challis Book online
14-15 Oct Belfast
Grand Opera House
Voice of the Book: Eoin Colfer Book online
16 Oct Belfast
Grand Opera House
Voice of the Book: Rula Lenska Book online
18 Oct St Albans
The Alban Arena
Voice of the Book: Anita Dobson Book online
20 Oct Kingston
Rose Theatre
Voice of the Book: Anita Dobson Book online
21 Oct Crawley
The Hawth
Voice of the Book: Clive Anderson Book online
22 Oct Watford
Colosseum
Voice of the Book: Clive Anderson Book online
24 Oct Southport
Theatre
Voice of the Book: Barry Cryer Book online
25 Oct Preston
Guild Hall
Voice of the Book: Jon Culshaw Book online
27 Oct Woking
New Victoria Theatre
Voice of the Book: Danny John-Jules Book online
28 Oct Reading
The Hexagon
Voice of the Book: Clive Anderson Book online
29 Oct Reading
The Hexagon
Voice of the Book: Anita Dobson Book online
31 Oct Buxton
Opera House
Voice of the Book: Anthony Daniels Book online
1 Nov York
Grand Opera House
Voice of the Book: Phill Jupitus Book online
2 Nov Scarborough
Spa
Voice of the Book: Barry Cryer Book online
3 Nov Dorking
Halls
Voice of the Book: Anthony Daniels Book online
5-6 Nov Glasgow
Theatre Royal
Voice of the Book: Bill Paterson Book online
7 Nov Dunfermline
Alhambra Theatre
Voice of the Book: Billy Boyd Book online
9 Nov Aberdeen
Music Hall
Voice of the Book: Billy Boyd Book online
10 Nov Inverness
Eden Court
Voice of the Book: Billy Boyd Book online
13 Nov New Brighton
Floral Pavilion
Voice of the Book: Colin Baker Book online
14 Nov Leeds
Grand Theatre
Voice of the Book: Colin Baker Book online
15 Nov Nottingham
Royal Concert Hall
Voice of the Book: Colin Baker Book online
16 Nov Hull
New Theatre
Voice of the Book: Colin Baker Book online
17 Nov Halifax
Victoria Theatre
Voice of the Book: Phill Jupitus Book online
19 Nov Torquay
Princess Theatre
Voice of the Book: Colin Baker Book online
20 Nov High Wycombe
Wycombe Swan
Voice of the Book: Colin Baker Book online
21 Nov Salisbury
City Hall
Voice of the Book: Paul Gambaccini Book online
22 Nov Bromley
Churchill Theatre
Voice of the Book: John Lloyd Book online
23 Nov Bromley
Churchill Theatre
Voice of the Book: Anthony Daniels Book online
24 Nov Poole
Lighthouse
Voice of the Book: Jon Culshaw Book online
25 Nov Truro
Hall for Cornwall
Voice of the Book: Shappi Khorsandi Book online
27 Nov Brighton
Theatre Royal
Voice of the Book: John Lloyd Book online
28 Nov Brighton
Theatre Royal
Voice of the Book: Hugh Dennis Book online
29 Nov Basingstoke
The Anvil
Voice of the Book: Danny John-Jules Book online
30 Nov Milton Keynes
Theatre
Voice of the Book: John Lloyd Book online


ENDS

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Your comments