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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show – Live

I’ve still got a stinking cold, and I’m finding the current Bidding Season at work very tiring, so I could really do with a run of early nights. But there was a show on at Malvern Theatre last night that I was determined to get to see, totally regardless of how grotty I was feeling.

I’ve been a huge fan of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy since the very first radio broadcasts in 1978, when we had to manually tape each episode off the radio. Naturally, I have all five books in the canonical trilogy (though I haven’t bothered with the cash-in written after Douglas Adam’s death), and I played the computer game back in 1984 when the language engine and text-only game-playing were really leading-edge. I loved the TV show, and when it was repeated in the mid-80s when I was at University, I remember that all the scientists and engineers in my college used to crowd into the TV room in the Junior Common Room to watch it together. One evening, we were all reciting the dialogue along with the actors, as usual, when a very harassed 3rd year English student stuck her head round the door to say that she was trying to produce a play in the drama studio in the basement below the TV room, and would we please keep the noise down!

So when I found out that Malvern Theatres was staging, for one night only, an official touring production starring many of the original cast from the radio series, I just had to be there.  Simon Jones reprised his role as Arthur Dent, whom he played in both the radio and TV series, and was joined by the original actors playing Ford Prefect and Trillian, and Stephen Moore as the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android. It was quite odd – they didn’t look anything like I thought Arthur, Ford and Trillian should, as the actors are all 35 years older than they were the first time I heard them. But if I shut my eyes, their voices were just right.

The performance was cleverly done. Because it was billed as a recreation of/homage to the original radio series, there was a minimum of staging or props, and all the actors had scripts which they read from into microphones at the front of the stage. They all wore costumes though, so naturally Arthur was in his trusty checked dressing gown. There was a special effects sound desk to one side of the stage, at which the producer and a sidekick generated all the sound effects. Behind them was a live band, who played the theme tune and the backing music for several songs.  Zaphod Beeblebrox’s second head and third arm were provided by a stage manager who walked behind him holding a head-on-a-stick over his right shoulder, and used her left arm as one of his on occasion.

Despite the fact that everyone had scripts, there were still lots of occasions when things went wrong; many of the actors fluffed their lines every now and then, props fell over, and the audio-visual effects were somewhat temperamental. I don’t think that I’ve seen a professional performance at which so many things went wrong, but watching the actors ad lib frantically as they tried to make a regain was all part of the charm.

Many of my favourite scenes and characters from the books were involved, though obviously in order to squeeze five books worth into under 3 hours a great deal was cut, and the rest rearranged to fit a highly condensed narrative. I found that I knew the dialogue so well that I could tell if a word had been cut from the script, or if an actor chose to pause in a different place or alter the inflection of his/her delivery.

The only bit I didn’t like was the rip-off prices. The ticket alone was over £30, which is right at the top end of the price-range for Malvern. But worse was the fact that they were charging £10 for a programme! That was really cashing in on the enthusiasm of the fan-base, and I declined to buy one, telling the seller that it was way too expensive.

All in all, it was a really good, thoroughly enjoyable, and intensely silly evening out. I laughed more than I have for ages.

{ 3 } Comments

  1. David A | 6 October 2013 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    Argh, I think I unsubscribed from their mailing list just in time to miss this 🙁

  2. Gillian | 7 October 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Ouch! Bad timing! I expected to see loads of people from work there, and was surprised that I didn’t bump into anyone I recognised, even though the venue was virtually sold out.

  3. Richard A | 8 October 2013 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Whenever I think of the radio show, it’s Peter Jones’ voice that I remember.

    I really think we ought to campaign for an evening with the Vogon Poets at the Ledbury Poetry Festival!