The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Radio Show - Live!
Glasgow Theatre Royal - Friday 8th June.
The Encyclopaedia Galactica has much to say on the subject of 'radio'. It tells us that 'radio' is a primitive form of radiation transfer which carries signals through waves using oscillating magnetic fields. The Guide goes on to tell us that most advanced races in the galaxy have now foregone radio as a valid means of communication with only the hyper-violent robots of Krikkit occasionally using it to check on their legacy on the third planet of the understated little solar system in Sector ZZ9 Plural-Z-Alpha.
However, it is that most remarkable of books - The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - which has the most to say on the subject of radio, especially in reference to its namesake, an incredibly popular series of cross-format fictions written by the late, great Douglas Adams. It tells us that the first series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series was broadcast in 1978 and, in true Hitchhikers' style, the last one was broadcast in 2005. It goes on to tell us that, of all the adaptations of Douglas Adams' creation, it is perhaps the most loved and the most revered in fan circles. Indeed, the voices of Simon Jones and Geoffrey McGivern have become synonymous with their characters Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect. The Guide then goes on to display a colourful animation of Martin Freeman and Mos Def being devoured by the Ravenous Bug-Blatter Beast of Traal.
It should come as no surprise therefore that the 'Final Phase' of the Hitchhiker's Guide Radio Show saw it take to the stage, allowing fans to put faces to the voices and allowing those dressing gown-wearing, towel-toting Hitchhikers to get an idea of what it takes to get the show on the air. With a plethora of treats for fans and with celebrities (Billy Boyd in this case) lending their practiced style to the voice of 'The Book', The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show promised a lot.
British Comedy Guide (a disturbing publication launched from the murky backwaters of the mucus-covered planet of Viltvodle VI) has this to say on the subject of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Radio Show - Live!:
The first half is, as has already been mentioned, decidedly weak and leaves you with the impression that the ticket price would have been better served going towards CD copies of the Primary & Secondary phases. It treads ground that, while entertaining enough in itself, seems as though the actors have been forced to recant one too many times. This isn't helped by the inclusion of Billy Boyd as 'The Book' because, while he's undoubtedly a talented actor, he delivers his lines with the comic timing of a schoolboy being forced to read from A Midsummer Night's Dream in front of his foreboding English teacher.
It's not difficult to identify the problem. The elements of Primary Phase which were used were written entirely by Douglas Adams and there can't have been much desire to deviate or 'riff' on the ideas which he had laid down. In addition, it is easy to see the first half as the show establishing its narrative. After all, to fit the events of five series into two and a half hours is no mean feat.
Perhaps it was the disappointment of the first act which allowed for such joy when the second act began. Aside from Boyd, who managed to be charming but ineffectual all at the same time, the cast suddenly became a fizzing, whirling ball of energy. It seemed as though they had gone through the traditional 'fan service' (which had all the charisma of Shatner doing famous lines from Star Trek at a convention), and were now into new territory.
The inclusion of Douglas Adams' own wonderful vocal performance as the serially wronged Agrajag (a physical portrayal of which, by director Dirk Maggs, you'll never forget) and the wonderful, absorbing setting of Milliways, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe gives the audience what they came for; a feeling of involvement in the proceedings. Toby Longworth's performance as Slartibartfast, coupled with the way the crew manage to portray Marvin The Paranoid Android, are particular highlights. In addition to that, there are some wonderful moments involving Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters and a lovely sing-along from one of Krikkit's biggest stars.
All in all, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show - Live! is like going to see your favourite band in concert. You know exactly what you're going to get and is a show anyone, except someone going in with a critical eye, would enjoy greatly. For all the weaknesses of the first half, the show more than makes up for it after the interval as it becomes more of an engaging stage show than an embellished reading. In anyone's money, it's a fitting tribute to the mind that created it all, Douglas Adams.
It is legend, passed down through the centuries, that British Comedy Guide offices were fired through space and time, landing on Earth just in time for the first Edinburgh Festival. In Dr Dan Streetmentioner's book Time Traveller's Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations, British Comedy Guide was/is/were lucky/unlucky to land on Earth and not the delightful North West Ripple(d).
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Radio Show - Live! is touring until 21st July. www.hitchhikerslive.com