Written and directed by Dirk Maggs from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Join Arthur Dent as he experiences multiple adventures in the search for a nice cup of tea…
Although many of the jokes are greeted like old friends by the audience – as well they should be, given that a large proportion of the first act of this show derives from the first three episodes of the radio/TV series/first book, all of which are over 30 years old – newcomers to Hitchhikers shouldn’t be put off by the daunting prospect of coming to this stage show. In many ways, it’s the ideal introduction to the whole saga – Dirk Maggs has distilled the key parts of the “trilogy in five parts” (unless I missed a reference, And Another Thing isn’t incorporated into the saga) into a vaguely coherent whole, that, most appropriately, is totally out of continuity with every other version of Hitchhikers.
For those of us who listened to the show first time round and were repeating all the best lines at school the next day – particularly during the initial week-long run of the first series – it’s wonderful, glorious nostalgia, and hearing the original cast saying those familiar lines is like stepping back through time.
But there’s far, far more to HHGGRS Live than just a group of actors standing at mikes. A lot of the foley effects are done live – often with visual assistance either from animations or… er, other things (the battle to get a tooth from a Sun Tiger is worth the price of admission). There’s a live band, featuring original music (although not quite sure why the “overture” had the Doctor Who theme prominently there…! [see comments below for an explanation!]) as well as a chance for the audience to sing along with “Share and Enjoy” and other great numbers. There are ridiculous costumes. There are terrific props. And there’s yet another iteration of Marvin, whose pre-recorded lines by Stephen Moore co-ordinate really well with the cast (as they should, this far into the tour).
There are some touching moments, notably the recordings of Douglas Adams, talking about Hitchhikers, and providing the voice for one of the characters in a sequence that won’t let you look at an umbrella in the same light again.
There are new versions of the voice of the Book each night – the first two Brighton performances featured Roger McGough, whose distinctive tones added a slightly different interpretation to either Peter Jones’ or Stephen Fry’s previous deliveries.
And of course, because it’s a live show, things can go wrong. The Nutrimat machine provides Arthur with various beverages of a non-tea variety – but last night, the cup fell over, revealing there was nothing in it. Simon Jones looked at the audience, picked up the previous cup, “poured” some of that into the new one, and adlibbed that it tasted the same. Susan Sheridan jumped in early with her question asking if anyone knows why Arthur can’t use the Infinite Improbability Drive, before Jones had said the line – and promptly adlibbed a line about time travel. Mark Wing-Davey capped one of Roger McGough’s ad libs when accents seemed to run away from him… The cast seem at ease with each other, and their love of the material communicates itself to the audience.
If you love HHGG, if you want to know what all the fuss is about, if you like science fiction… whatever your condition, get to see this! 10/10