Writer: Adrian Marks
Reviewer: Simon Topping
It is 2003 as the audience join the queue to meet Gandalf for the upcoming signing of the official movie companion to The Two Towers, due to take place the following day. Front of the line is Kevin Brook, self-confessed fanatic of all things Lord of the Rings, a seemingly unassuming young man in orange mac, sat on a camping chair surrounded by snacks and supplies to get him through the night. This is the start of Waiting for Gandalf, an engrossing hour of storytelling, tackling dark places and buried emotion; a piece written by Adrian Marks, performed by Chris Neville-Smith with direction from Patrick Sanford, for Mankind (a charity which provides a safe space in Sussex for men who have been affected by unwanted sexual experiences).
Brook starts off regaling the crowd with his love of Tolkien, explaining why they are the best books and films ever, he has seen the first film over twenty times! As the monologue unfolds we are slowly shown glimpses of the deeper truth about why he has to escape into these fantasies; a judgemental dad, an overly possessive mother, the loss of a mentoring teacher and above all the complex relationship he has with his army “hero” brother.
Chris Neville-Smith, as Brooks, is an engaging storyteller, with plenty of warmth he is a very likeable performer. The audience are immersed in Brook’s world; a story that feels like it could be a modern addition to Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads series.
There are some wonderfully funny touches in the piece too; an almost Mrs Robinson moment Brooks unwittingly stumbles into, and the politics of office parties particularly bring a laugh in the room.
Waiting for Gandalf is an intense and moving piece about one mans’ trouble to come to terms with abuse, it is wonderfully told and highlights the work still needed for men to come out and share their emotions. Vital work that needs to be supported.
Reviewed on 18th May