The Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy on stage
The Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy has been adapted a lot of times on stage during the eighties and nineties. Since 1999, future stage production rights got tied up with the rights to make the film bought by Disney, though various amateur and sometimes professional adaptations still appear worldwide today. Finally two years after the fabulous Hitchcon Live performance (with the most of the original radio cast), Dirk Maggs announced in April 2011 a Hitchhiker Live event. It has toured successfully the UK in 2012 and was back on the road in 2013.
This page tries to be as complete as possible. You will even be able to download some of the programmes. If you’ve got any information(s)/picture(s) or if i fogot some adaptations, please email me.
Thanks to Dave H, Kevin Davies, Ol’Peculiar and Angharad Madog at Clwyd Theatre for their kind help.
The first Hitchhiker adaptations on stage
1) The first ever stage adaptation of H2G2 was held at the Institute of Contempory Arts (ICA) in London, between 1 and 9 May 1979. It was directed by Ken Campbell and starred Chris Langham as Arthur Dent. The show ran 90 minutes, but had an audience limited to eighty people for each of the nine performances. According a contributor in Wikipedia : “Actors performed on a variety of ledges and platforms, and the audience was pushed around in a hovercar, 1/2000th of an inch above the floor. This was the first time that Zaphod was represented by having two actors in one large costume. The narration of “The Book” was split between two usherettes, an adaptation that has appeared in no other version of H2G2″. It was a huge success, the 640 tickets for the show’s run had even been sold out long before it opened.
2) The second stage show was a production of the still active Clwyd Theatr Cymru (http://www.clwyd-theatr-cymru.co.uk). It was adapted for the sage by Jonathan Petheridge.
The company performed adaptations of complete radio episodes, at times doing two episodes in a night, and at other times doing all six episodes of the first series in single three-hour sessions. According to Neil Gaiman, “The Theatr Clwyd performance was so successful that they were offered the opportunity to take their production to London’s prestigious Old Vic Theatre. Unfortunately, by this time Douglas had offered the stage rights to Ken Campbell” (in Neil Gaiman’s Don’t Panic). One of the most interesting point in the Clwyd version is that they kept the Haggunenon arc of the storyline which only featured in the original radio series.
It was performed :
– Throughout Wales between 15 January and 23 February 1980. Directed by Jonathan Petherbridge. According to Dave H from ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, “The Theatre Clwyd production that toured North Wales started in Bangor at Theatr Gwynedd on 15/01/1980 and went to the Theatr Y Werin, Aberystwyth and Sherman Theatre, Cardiff before the performances at the group’s “home” theatre in Mold between 04/02/1980 and 23/02/1980″.
– Then, still according to Dave H, “The production was so popular that it was revived in October to December 1981 on a tour started at Mold, and then went to Cambridge, Newcastle, Cardiff, Stirling, Bristol, Poole, Swansea and Oxford”.
– Between 17 and 21 november 1981 at the Poole Arts Centre
– In December 1981 at the Oxford Playhouse.
There were also individual revivals at various points in the 80s. Plymouth and Derby in 1982 (more details below), Coventry in 1983 (more details below) and Birmingham (from 23th February to 9th March 1985).
– In May–June 1982 at the Plymouth’s Theatre Royal. Still directed by Jonathan Petherbridge.
– A version was also put on stage by the Derby Playhouse between 22 September and 16 october 1982. It was directed by Christopher Honer, then artistic director of the Derby Playhouse. Cast included : David Ericsson (Narrator), Trevor Nichols (Arthur), Keith Woodhams (Ford) ,Hazel Hellerby (Trillian), Andy Readman (Zaphod) and Tom Bowles (Marvin). The show was played with two intervals of twelve minutes.
(Right click to DOWNLOAD FULL DERBY PLAYHOUSE PROGRAMME).
– In July 1983 at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry. Directed by Rob Bettinson with Lewis Cowen (The Narrator), Bill Stewart (Arthur), Nicholas Geake (Ford), Jeffrey Chiswick (Zaphod), Leila Bretrand (Trillian) and Michael Mears (Marvin). Some secondary parts were played by members of the Belgrade Youth Theatre.The opening night was June 23 The show was played with two intervals.
(Right click to DOWNLOAD FULL BELGRADE THEATRE PROGRAMME)
3) Rainbow Theatre in London, in July 1980.
This was the second production directed by Ken Campbell. It was a huge and very costly production (with a £300,000 budget) set in a 3.000-seats audtiorium redesigned as an intergalactic spaceport where only 700 places could be used. The production was widely criticized for its three hours long run, backing band’s music, laser effects, and the acting. Despite attempts to shorten the script, and make other changes, it closed three or four weeks early (accounts differ), and lost a lot of money (Douglas Adams described it as “a financial disaster”). This was the first adaptation that featured the “Dish of the Day” sequence. Zaphod was played by two actors (presumably the only effective way to get a two headed president with lively heads!).
The cast included : Roger Blake (the Narrator), Kim Durham (Arthur), David Brett (Ford), Jude Alderson (Trillian), John Terence and Nicolas D’Avirro (Zaphod) and David Learner (Marvin).
(Right click to DOWNLOAD FULL RAINBOW THEATRE PROGRAMME)
Anniversary live versions of the radio series
Dirk Maggs, the man who brought to us the three last H2G2 radio series, directed two famous stage representations of the Hitchhiker’s radio series and of course the two Hitchhikers Live tours (see Hitchhikers Live section) !
– Script reading of the Second Episode of The Hitchhiker’s radio series. The Sixth Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture. Royal Geographical Society, South Kensington, London. 12 March 2008.
The first one was staged in March 2008 for the 30th anniversary of the radio series. It was a faithful reproduction of the second radio episode with all the major actors of the original radio series on stage for the first time (but without Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod Beeblebrox). Geoffrey Perkins, who directed the original radio series, was the book in replacement of Peter Jones (who died in 2000). The representation was of course too short (oh, come on, just 30 minutes, you know you can do better than that, guys!).
For pictures of the event please check my gallery here
– Hitchhikers Live On Stage, Hitchcon, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Center, London. 11 October 2009
A second and more ambitious production was staged in October 2009 for the Hitchcon. It was a 1h30 long adaptation of the first radio series with all the original actors still alive (with Mark Wing-Davey this time). The special effects were also made live by Dirk Maggs and Ken Humphrey. And Dirk Maggs added some visual gags (the mice wore some mickey ears, Zaphod really had a second head and third arm,…). Eoin Colfer, who worte H2G2 part 6, played The Dish of the Day and was rightfuly eaten. The whole experience was just great, very energetic, and of course skillfully played.
Some other productions (amateurs and professionals)
– Unknown school Hanover, New Hampshire (USA) 1982.
According to MJ Simpson (The Pocket Essential Hitchhiker’s guide), the first ever amateur production of H2G2 was played by american students in 1982.
– Crescent Theatre, Birmingham, UK, february and march 1985.
– RATS (Redditch Amateur Theatrical Society), Palace Theatre, Reditch (UK). November 1986.
Featured according to MJ Simpson the only ever stage appearance of Lady Cynthia Fitzmetlon (the Margaret Thatcher type of character in the first episode of the radio series).
– Axel Pape. Comedia Colonia (Germany). February 1987.
A one man show version of Hitchhiker by Alex Pape!
– Portsmouth Drama Center, Southsea (UK). April 1987.
Incorporated bits of the third and fourth novels! Also featured Eccentrica Gallumbits, the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon VI.
– Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society (Bermuda). May 1992.
Based on the Jonathan Petheridge script.
– Arena Theatre Company. Regent Centre, Christchurch, Dorset (UK). May 1995.
According to MJ Simpson, it was a musical version with the cast breaking into a variety of 1960s pop songs!
– Reverie Productions. New York (US). February 2002.
The six episodes of the first series played on stage with sound effects.
– Spanganga, San Francisco (USA). December 2003. The play sttared Colin Benoit, Mike Spiegelman, Sean Kelly, Danielle, Shane Koon, Bryce Byerly, the voice of Hal Robins and many more. Script adapted by Jim Fourniadis. Here are some pics from the last peformance :http://laughingsquid.com/hitchhikers-guide-to-the-galaxy-the-play/
– Curio Theatre Company, Philadelphia (USA). March-April 2006.
The Calvary Center (February 16 to March 4) and The Walnut Street Theatre Studio Five (March 8 to 26).Directed by Jared Reed. Based on the first foor episodes of the radio series. “Combining original storyboard illustrations created by Nonthaporn and Ray Saunders, over 200 sound effects, and five live actors reading multiple characters, this production promises to be a unique theatrical experience!”
Here is a short blog entry about the production
There was even a part two, in march 2007. Here is a review published in “Philadelphia City Paper”
– What Exit?, Mapplewood (USA). 16 & 17, 23 & 24 April 2010 at the Burgdorff Cultural Center.
Production from the What Exit? company. “We’re going to use one of Maplewood’s little-known treasures – it’s gaggles of working voice over actors – a few sound designers, 8 microphones, some ancient guitar pedals, and a heap-load of cables to recreate that original radio broadcast, live, on our stage!”
– Strathclyde Theatre Group with Radio Theatre Group, Glasgow (UK). From the 24th March to 2nd April 2011 at the Ramshorn Theatre, Glasgow. Directed by Susan C. Triesman and Bruce Downie. Radio script reading of the six first episodes (three hours long performance). Here you can read a review from ZZ9.