|The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Radio Series Live (photo by James Bullimore)|
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy is now on tour live on stage since the 8th June.
It’s a long way since March 2008 when James Thrift, Douglas Adams’ brother, asked to the public, after a reacting of the episode 2 with the original cast, if they would be willing to see Hitchhiker on Stage.
In October 2009, during the Hitchcon, we were blessed with a 90 minute long adaptation of the radio series, adapted and directed by Dirk Maggs.
Dirk Maggs is, of course, the man behind the three last Hitchhiker series (aired in 2004 and 2005) and also the Dirk Gently adaptations (in 2007 and 2008). To say that he knows perfectly Douglas Adams’ work is a euphemism. So it comes with no surprise that he is the man behind this latest version of Hitchhiker.
I have not seen the show yet. I intend to see it the 19th July when the show comes to London (on my birthday!). “So how can you write a bloody review of the show ???” you could justifiably ask.
Well, being French I’m kind of deceitful, and thrived on a recent journey to London to buy and download the audio version of the show that every British citizen can buy and download on the official website (if you don’t live in UK, you can’t, let that be a lesson to you!). In fact, if you live in UK, you can buy and download the version of the show you want (the audio recording of each show stays online during 7 days). Maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t live in UK, because it would have been very difficult for me to stop myself from buying each version of the show.
To write my review, I chose deliberately the recording of the first date of the tour: the recording from the 8th June made in Glasgow. The interesting side is to listen to the show as it was originally conceived without the little changes that sure will follow the first dates (and DaveH, ZZ9 president and well known Hitchhiker expert, told me that “Dirk is tweaking the show to remove what he calls “flat spots” where he was expecting something from the audience but didn’t get it. In Northampton there was a new punchline to the mixing of the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster).
As you may know, at least one important bit changes in almost each city where Hitchhiker Live goes. It’s the voice of the book. In Glasgow, the part was played by Scottish actor Billy Boyd (of Lord of the Rings fame).
But let’s begin with the review.
The show begins with music and not just any music but with Pink Floyd. A fitting tribute as Douglas Adams was a fan and friend of David Gilmour but also because in the original radio series Marvin hums some Pink Floyd on Magrathea (a bit that you can’t find on the CD and tape versions of the series for copyright reasons). Also Pink Floyd’s “One of these days” (the said music) quotes Dr Who theme music (another fitting tribute).
Here begins the show. And one bit of a shock as it doesn’t start at the right place! But your shock just begins to dispel that the earth gets destroyed and you hear “Journey of the Sorcerer” (Hitchhiker legendary theme). It makes me shudder when I hear that one.
I won’t describe all of what you’ll get in the show because I don’t want to spoil the pleasure to discover it by yourself.
It won’t come as a surprise for those who have seen Hitchhiker Live at Hitchcon three years ago, but don’t expect from Dirk Maggs a straightforward version of the Hitchhiker original series in the right order and with every bit in it.
Nevertheless, don’t worry too much. Dirk knows perfectly well Hitchhiker and could probably quote most of the series by heart. So in this two hour long show that include pieces from almost each of the five radio series, Dirk didn’t let out something mind-boggingly vital out of the show. Most of the best bits of Hitchhiker are there (even when entire corresponding passages have been removed: no Prosser in Hitchhiker Live, no Horse and Groom neither. As I told you the show literally begins with the destruction of the earth.
As usual, Dirk didn’t hesitate to add his own jokes and bits of dialogues. But it’s always respectful and in tune with Hitchhiker global mood. Even if I think that Dirk versions of Hitchhiker will always be less ambiguous than the Adams’ ones. In the original Hitchhiker radio series, there is a kind of bitterness, that you may not find here (even if the Hitchhiker concept and text is and will always remain full of black humour). With Dirk Maggs, Hitchhiker is nevertheless more joyful.
Of course, when you listen to the audio version of a stage show, you’ve got the feeling sometimes you miss something (visual jokes,…). But it stands really on its own as an audio show, and the sound quality is just great even if it is a raw / non edited version (but once again, that is no surprise with Dirk Maggs). The addition of a live band and funny songs is welcome. Douglas Adams wanted Hitchhiker to sound as a rock album, so yep Hitchhiker Live sounds accordingly (or at least a pop rock one). Speaking of sound effects, some of them used in the show, as the guide sound, come from the original series. That’s a nice touch. Sometimes I found that maybe there is not enough of them. I found the Restaurant bit a little on the quiet side. But once again it was a raw audio version of the show so i may be mistaken.
On the whole, I’m more pleased with the first half of the show even if there are excellent bits in the second half (Agrajag – voiced by Douglas Adams as in the radio series – and the Restaurant at the end of the universe). I’ve never been much of a fan of Random (Trillian and Arthur’s daughter) so I would not have been that sad if she had been left out of the show, and the end is a little disappointing (ideally I would have wanted something more spectacular – maybe like the end of the Quintessential phase of the H2G2 radio series as written by… Dirk Maggs).
Still, Hitchhiker live is spectacular. The main actors are all part of the legend. Of course you won’t get Peter Jones as the Voice of the Book, but for me, and regarding the Glasgow show, Billy Boyd played a nice Scottish version of the book.
I can’t wait to be able to see Hitchhiker Live in all its visual splendour, and to laugh with the audience, at what will remain for centuries to come one of the best incarnations of the British sense of humour. Outrageously witty and funny, that is “The Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy”! Here live and with the original actors packed in it. By Zarquon, you don’t want to miss it.
For your information Douglasadams.eu has also its own facebook page too