Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy has become a cult phenomenon since it’s an initial outing as part of a series of radio comedies in 1978. Following the current trend for revivals and reunions, (Take That & Steps in the pop world, and re-workings of Abigail’s Party and Dandy Dick in the theatre world are just a few examples of this) this “live radio show” brings back the original cast as well as some of the cast members from the later versions too.
It is a brave move, which could easily have backfired. As Douglas Adams himself said “radio is such an intensely visual medium”. And there are many who agree that it would be too much to try to create the images which many people have created in their own heads from his words. However, the clever way this show has been staged – with the actors carrying scripts, using microphone/script stands and with a foley artist (sound effects) on stage – really works. It allows the script to be the focus – and with an audience this keen on the script, you need to do it justice. Luckily, the original cast are more than up to the task – you can tell why Susan Sheridan coaches others in voice techniques, her delivery was perfect and had great clarity. Simon Jones (wearing his characters famous dressing gown!) and Geoff McGivern bounce off each other so well that the script seems as fresh as it would have been when they first performed it in 1978. As it was opening night, there was the odd stumble over some of the more difficult phrases (you try quickly welcoming Slartibartfast to Magrathea or Viltvodle Vi and you’ll see the challenge) however this only adds to the joy of live theatre and I hope that this freshness doesn’t fade out later in the tour.
Stephen Moore (the original voice of “Marvin The Paranoid Android”) couldn’t join the tour due to a previous commitment, however his voice is still there in recorded form and his absence has meant the addition of a new incarnation of Marvin in visual form. This works well, and with the minimal/token costumes and masks, it ensures that the visuals don’t detract too much from the humour within the dialogue. One of the items that works really well (despite a few technical hitches) was the live sound effects. Ken Humphrey works extremely hard both with and around the cast to create some very clever effects.
Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod completes the original cast and with Toby Longworth,Philip Pope, Andrew Secombe and Samantha Beart (from later “phases” of the show) we have an extremely talented vocal cast who seem to have slipped back into a natural rapport. Throughout the tour the cast will be joined by a guest artist as “The Voice Of The Book”. Billy Boyd was in Glasgow for opening night and really seemed to understand what the audience were looking for. His additional cameo as “The Meat” was a genius moment and it will be very interesting to see what the other guests (including, Phil Jupitus, John Challis, Jon Culshaw and Andrew Sachs amongst others) will make of this role.
The addition of a live band was another clever idea by director Dirk Maggs, who also adapted and wrote some of the script, assisted with sound effects, played Zaphod’s second head – oh yes, and played drums in said live band!
Even for myself who has very little previous knowledge of The Hitchhiker’s Guide series, this was still a very enjoyable and fun evenings entertainment – however the fan I had taken along (who would very rarely set foot in a theatre) was even found to be joining in with the sing-a-long sections. This is testament to how clever the show is in drawing in all levels of it’s fanbase. Quote of the night however was from the young boy leaving in front of me – “I was laughing and crying at the same time – I was scared, but it was so funny I had to keep laughing!”.
Touring from 8th June until 21st July 2012