The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Radio Series Live (photo by James Bullimore)

At last, my best birthday party ever. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy Radio Series Live just for me. Well, me and a few other spectators in the fully packed Hackney Empire Theatre. It was an historic day. The 19th July, Hitchhiker’s Live was in London and I was here.

I was eager to see how Dirk, a radio man and a fine drummer (a man, a priori , more at ease with sound and “maybe” less with visuals), would translate visually Hitchhiker on stage. Even if it was not the first time he did it. The first time Hitchhiker has been performed live was in March 2008 during the sixth Douglas Adams memorial lecture for the 30th anniversary of the radio series. It was a performance of Episode 2 with the actors on stage. If my memory serves me right, the only visual aspect was Simon Jones in his dressing gown. In October 2009, it was a much more visual 90 minute long performance at the Hitchcon that took bits from different episodes.

But never anything had been done on this scale. We still have the actors playing on stage in front of mics with their scripts in their hands (it’s a live radio show, not a theatre play). But there is a real set with lot of props, screens in the back, a live band in the left corner, the sound effect counter (on rollers!), and the narrator club chair in the right corner…

So Hitchhiker’s Live is not just audio, we have a lot of things going on on the stage. Dirk Maggs and Ken Humphrey do most of the sound effects live with various and often funny objects. The sound effects are indeed as much sound than visual jokes. Dirk and Ken make a great duo. They should probably start a comedy routine on their own.

Dirk is really the conductor of the show, sitting behind the drums, doing sound effects behind the counter, or miming hysterically Agrajag with a black umbrella. I wish I will be in such a great condition at his age (OK, next time I see him he’ll probably hit me with the said umbrella, but he knows how much I love what he’s done for years on Hitchhiker. He’s the best thing that happened to Hitchhiker in the 21st century).

The Hitchhiker’s actors are some of the best. A rare breed. It was such a pleasure to see all of them (well sadly Stephen Moore, the famous voice of Marvin, was pre recorded, but that seems logical). At the London show, I found Geoff McGivern to be in a great form, he almost stole the show. But of course Simon Jones, Susan Sheridan and Mark Wing-Davey are huge bigger than life actors too. It was great to see that the “newcomers” were so good. Toby Longworth is an excellent Vogon Captain, Andy Secombe (Harry’s very talented son) is a great Colin/Max/door, Samantha Béart a nice Random and a realistic teenager (to be clear about Random, I said in my previous review I was not fond of the character bits in Hitchhiker, the actress knows perfectly her job). And of course, the narrator for the London show was no less than the unique Terry Jones! So, with Hitchhiker’s Live you get a great flawless casting.

I also loved Marvin’s retro design, the best representation of the manically depressed robot since the Illustrated Guide version in 1994. I feared it could be too static, but it is superbly lively and well animated.

The show was very smooth-running. You sense that Dirk spent time to perfect the show since the beginning of the tour according the audience reactions.

Maybe a few words about the merchandising, as it’s difficult not to buy something from the shop. Everything is top quality. I chose a big size glazed paper souvenir brochure and the nicely done official towel (both articles are rather cheap for such quality items. I also took the Babel fish USB key (OK it’s just 1gb but it’s so cooool). T-shirts are also great and I’ll try to buy all of them later when I’ll get (hopefully) some more money.

It was also nice to hug the lovely Sue (Douglas’ sister), and to shake hands with Polly (Douglas’s daughter). What an honour! And of course to meet again my friends Kevin Davies (the legendary KJD who worked on most Hitchhiker incarnations) and his fabulous son Liam. Plus the ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha fantastic bunch (with its top notch president Dave – he’ll proof read this review so I prefer to be careful with what I say). What a night! I even forgot to smoke my birthday cigar. First time in years.

Due to the success of the show, I’m quite sure it will tour again soon across UK but maybe also hopefully in other parts of the world. With such a team, and such a show, it would be sad not to take the next step. Come on Dirk, you know you want it.