Author: Douglas Adams
Director/Adaptor: Dirk Maggs
Musical Director: Philip Pope
Reviewer: Bill Avenell
It was certainly a large, noisy and excited audience largely made up of ‘guiders’ who waited expectantly for ‘The Journey of the Sorcerer’ (with that famous hitchhiker’s banjo undertone) to take them back in time to 1978, rather than forward several trillion years, at the Theatre Royal last night. To judge by their reaction this show, by and large, did the trick, but it also pointed up the Achilles Heel of Douglas Adams famous fantasy. The problem is that though Adams created some wonderfully inventive and funny ideas; Vogon Poetry, Babel Fish, the Earth (run as a computer programme and social experiment by white mice) destroyed to make way for a galactic by-pass, the Improbability Drive itself; he was never able or prepared to weave them into a coherent story. Thus the first part of last night’s performance was full of laughs as some of the most famous anecdotes and characters were rehearsed but the second part dragged rather disappointingly as the adaptor Dirk Maggs whizzed us through to some form of conclusion, padding out the lack of new ideas with more acting by the ‘radio’ performers and more emphasis on music and special effects such as the preparation of the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. Altogether rather an anticlimax.
The aficionados were presented with the reunion of many of the original cast, and this was obviously a joy in itself; Simon Jones as Arthur Dent, Geoff McGivern as Ford Prefect, Susan Sheridan as Trillian and Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod BB were given a rapturous welcome and did not disappoint. But even they struggled to keep the energy up in the second part and it was down to newcomer Toby Longworth to keep the show moving with his performance as Slartibartfast and of course Stephen Moore as Marvin the Paranoid Android. The set was a triumph for Ben M Rogers, suitably spaceship-like and cleverly combining the special effects booth, the microphones, the band, the video and ‘The Book’s easy chair. But mention of ‘The Book’ raises last night’s fatal flaw. The late Peter Jones laconic style was always a vital part of the show’s appeal and in his inevitable absence Roger McGough, yesterday’s guest ‘Voice of The Book’, struggled to give the same laid back narration, so central to the original.
So the ‘guiders’ had a good night out, from my next door neighbour who showed not a flicker of emotion throughout the show, then displayed an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things hitchhikey in the interval and declared himself well pleased at the end, to the lady in the car park grinning from ear to ear at memories of her son’s addiction of 30 years ago, but perhaps the uninitiated might do better to save their money. One note of warning; if you find very bright flashing lights and loud music difficult to deal with, come prepared. Luckily I had my dark glasses in my bag and wore them throughout.