Writer: Kevin Dyer
Director: Joe Sumsion
Reviewer: May Mellstrom
The Dukes walkabout theatre production in Lancaster’s picturesque Williamson Park is becoming an annual summer highlight and after tackling Victorian England with literary classic Oliver Twist in 2015, this years offering takes a leap into the fantastical realm of Middle Earth with an adaptation of J.R.R Tolkein’s The Hobbit.
Bilbo Baggins (a likeable Gareth Cassidy) is a homebody who is comfortable with a life of simple domesticity at Bag End, The Shire – that is, until Gandalf brings a band of dwarves to his door and an invitation to join their adventure to reclaim their lost treasure from a fearsome dragon, Smaug. Throughout five distinct scenes we journey with Bilbo as he encounters weird and wonderful creatures, enchanted forests and finds a mysterious, some might say precious, ring.
Writer Kevin Dyer adapts Tolkein’s epic novel with skill, capturing the essence of the original and including most major plot points while ensuring the story translates into a successful piece of theatre. In doing so his adaptation should serve both to satisfy book readers and introduce the tale to a new generation. Tolkein’s original features no female characters but in one welcome change from the source material here Natalia Campbell is a a commanding Thorin, leader of the dwarves, and Josie Cerise makes an impression in multiple roles including scheming trickster Gollum.
There is perhaps less humour than in previous years but decidedly more action, with director Joe Sumsion using his considerable expertise and experience with the Williamson Park productions to make excellent use of locations and transform the space to suit the scenes perfectly. The design by Barney George is ambitious and imaginative, featuring the best use of the iconic Ashton Memorial yet as smoke billows across charred bones left by the deadly dragon that lies within. The costumes are also particularly impressive, especially the imposing armour of the Great Goblin who is a formidable figure on every appearance. Lighting and sound design by Brent Lees and Oliver Birch respectively is atmospheric and contributes hugely to an immersive climactic battle sequence.
There are perhaps some pacing problems in the first Act, with a lengthy second scene introducing multiple characters before a significantly shorter scene three that leaves the chapter breakdown feeling slightly uneven. It is a minor issue however when it is clear that both adults and children alike are already invested enough to be anticipating Act Two.
The Hobbit is an absorbing and often thrilling adaptation that recreates the magical world of Middle Earth and whisks every audience member along for the ride. This is another accomplished offering from The Dukes that will be a special summer show for all the family.
Runs until 13 August 2016