In honesty I wasn’t sure what this would be like. Expectations were high, from me at least, and it would be Gillian’s first experience of Douglas Adams‘ seminal work. Anyone who knows me knows that this is a piece of fiction that means a lot to me for various reasons…
Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy: The Radio Show – Live!
I began the evening stood outside the theatre where I managed to meet the lovely Susan Sheridan who signed my old copy of the original scripts. As time wore on, I realised that the rest of the cast must already have arrived so I settled in the bar with Gillian and “enjoyed” a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (JD, Archer’s, Blue Curacuao and fresh orange). At Â£8 I was hoping for something that at least tasted nice while it smashed my brains in and this didn’t. Sadly/luckily I didn’t have time for a Babel Fish or the other cocktail which I can’t remember the name of.
Our seats weren’t far from the front and we sat down to await the start. Certainly the set looked nice with a series of microphones at the front, a small desk to the left, orchestra/band to the rear and a comfy chair on a plinth for – I assumed – The Book (as read at the Glasgow performances by Billy Boyd). In addition, there was a nice “swoosh” motif across the back with a circular screen to the right. The entirety of this, it turned out, was an unusually-shaped projection screen which was used to good effect throughout the show.
I won’t spoil any of the events in the show, but suffice to say that it’s certainly notÂ just a simple rendering of the original radio series. It has been adapted, tweaked and added to in the spirit of every version of the story so far (by Dirk Maggs). The basis of the story, many key events and a lot of the dialogue is as the original. However, there is a wealth of new material and some of the best lines have been moved about a bit mainly – I reckon – to reduce the show to a manageable length.Â The adaptation I saw a year or so ago by Strathclyde University drama group was superb but a little long at almost three hours.
The core of the original cast is present – Simon Jones as Arthur Dent, Geoffrey McGivern as Ford Prefect, Susan Sheridan as Trillian, Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod and Phil Pope as “several random characters”. Stephen Moore is, I believe, touring with Oliver!Â so he has recorded all of Marvin’s dialogue which is used for the show.
The important thing is – is it any good? There have been stage version of the Guide before and they’ve, generally, failed dismally. This one is different for having so many of the original cast there. It’s not just an adaptation, it’s a bringing-together of so much of the creative talent who have been involved since the very beginning.
As a result… yes. Yes, it’s good. In fact, it’s very good.
I confess that some things jarred as I was expecting a straight stage performance of the scripts. However, once I’d got my head around the fact that this was a version in its own right I began to enjoy the new material and the changes that had been made to create more of an actual stage show.
There was a smidgen of audience participation, but not enough to make it silly. The cast were superb, even with the occasional slip which was taken in good spirit by their colleagues and the audience alike. The weak link in the chain, in my view, was Billy Boyd. He’s a wonderful guy, but his voice just didn’t carry enough gravitas to be The Book in my opinion. However, he made up for this in spades with his performance as the Dish of the Day later in the show. Along with Marvin, I think his lines raised the largest laughs of the night. I suppose now that his brief stint is over (a variety of actors will play this role in other venues), I can reveal that he played the part with a strong Glaswegian accent that went down very well with the crowd!
Incidentally, a full list of actors playing this part can be found on the official web site. Missing, sadly, are the non-main players. A shame as I would like to give credit to the chap who plays Slartibartfast magnificently well, and the young lady playing Random Dent. Maybe I should have forked out a fiver for the programmer after all.
After a rousing applause and a tribute to Douglas himself, the cast were kind enough to sign anything and everything thrust at them outside the stage door, pausing for photos and – in Billy’s case – hugging one girl who squealed with delight! These are people who really believe in what they’re doing (two of them are producers).
This was a great show. Not only did I enjoy it, I would consider forking out for a second visit. The way the show ends (again, trying to be pretty much spoiler-free), I wouldn’t be surprised if the script has major changes the next time it comes around. Certainly Dirk has built in a great excuse to get away with it if this is the case.
As ever, the biggest shame is that Douglas isn’t here to see how much everyone still enjoys his work – both watching and performing it. Here’s to the show’s continued success.