PREVIEW STAGE ADAPTATION THE HOBBIT Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Tue 23–Sun 28 Mar
Peter Jackson spent over £200 million filming the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and bought himself some pretty nifty visual effects in the process. But there’s more than one way to lift JRR Tolkien’s words from the page, as theatre producer Vanessa Ford can testify. In 1998, when she first approached the film company who own the rights to Tolkien’s novels, Ford was met with a barrage of scepticism.
‘I was doubtful that I could get the rights to The Hobbit,’ recalls Ford. ‘But I thought I’d give it a try anyway. And the film company in America said we don’t know how you could possibly do a journey story of that nature on the stage – as far as they were concerned it would only work on film.’ Despite this, Ford and her late husband Glyn Robbins were invited to put together a synopsis, which, along with their proven track record for producing other epic journey stories on stage, such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, was enough to convince the company to give them a shot.
‘We told them we wanted to do every single episode there is in the
book,’ says Ford. ‘And to make it as magical and as real as we could – so if the book says the characters encounter a giant spider or a dragon, we’re going to have one on stage. So they said OK then, give it a go.’ Three successful UK tours later, Ford has proved that Tolkien’s words
can come to life without the aid of celluloid. Seven years after it was last seen, The Hobbit is back on tour, complete with dwarves, goblins, wolves and the aforementioned spider and dragon. ‘It’s a very meaty show,’ says Ford, ‘and what I like to call whole family entertainment.’ (Kelly Apter)
84 THE LIST 18 Mar–1 Apr 2010
REVIEW CONTEMPORARY DANCE SCOTTISH DANCE THEATRE: NQR & THE LIFE AND TIMES OF GIRL A Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thu 1–Sat 3 Apr ●●●●●
If it seems a little noisy in Dundee at the moment, it’s because there’s some serious groundbreaking going on there. Under the forward-thinking eye of artistic director Janet Smith, Scottish Dance Theatre (SDT) is producing work which forces us to alter our perception of what dance is and, more importantly, who can dance.
Based on a former medical acronym for ‘not quite right’, NQR is an integrated piece for disabled and able- bodied dancers. Two of the performers – SDT’s dance agent for change Caroline Bowditch and associate director Marc Brew – are in wheelchairs, the others not. Yet there is never a sense of ‘them and us’ on stage – they are all just dancers and, like everyone in the audience, they are all different. Choreographed by Smith, Bowditch and Brew, the work is at turns humorous and thought- provoking, with atmospheric light boxes providing some striking visual imagery.
Humour has an even bigger role to play in Ben Duke’s The Life and Times of Girl A. Longing to make a film, a stylish actor/director (played with subtlety and wit by Solene Weinachter) has only a group of dancers at her disposal, so shoehorns them into roles they cannot play. Interspersed with fun, synchronised movement, the dialogue and dramatic action is amusing, briefly confusing but always entertaining. (Kelly Apter)
REVIEW REVIVAL EQUUS Dundee Rep, until Sat 20 Mar ●●●●●
N O S T R E B O R S A L G U O D
Peter Shaffer’s oft-revived classic about a troubled boy who blinds four horses and the psychiatrist who treats him is an odd mix of compelling mystery and disarming theatricality that also runs the risk of getting bogged down in its own heavy symbolism and long-winded arguments about the drawbacks of psychiatry, and the power of sex, religion and the imagination.
Jemima Levick’s handling of the source material largely succeeds in calling attention to the play’s strengths, however. While Alex Lowde’s glaring white set is initially distracting, the decision to stage Shaffer’s play in the round on an empty stage with only nominal props, emphasising the theatricality of the piece, leads to some moments of intense power, particularly in those scenes in which the psychiatrist Martin Dysart (Robert Paterson) gradually draws out the back story to Alan Strang’s (Duncan Anderson) shocking actions.
Paterson, while proficiently ringing the changes as the middle-aged shrink who comes to question his own sense of purpose, is saddled (sorry) with some of Shaffer’s wordier monologues, which feel somewhat anti-climactic following the powerful flashback scenes tracing the boy’s upbringing and the development of his passion for horses. Anderson delivers an impressively intricate performance as Strang that captures the boy’s magnetic, enigmatic otherness as well as his hostility and vulnerability, and this forms a large measure of what makes the production so engaging. (Allan Radcliffe)
REVIEW REVIVAL MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 20 Mar ●●●●●
Verbatim theatre can feel very ephemeral, bringing a sense of immediacy to the stage, but without much of a life beyond a particular moment in history. Ros Philips’ production of My Name is Rachel Corrie, first staged in 2005, is given added poignancy by the ongoing stalemate in the Middle East and the current civil suit being brought by the Corrie family against the state of Israel. The affecting true story of a middle class college student from Washington
State, who died beneath an Israeli bulldozer while acting as a human shield in Gaza in 2003, derives much of its power from the script, skilfully shaped from Corrie’s own diaries, emails and writings by Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner. At first glimpse, Rachel (played here by Mairi Phillips) is as angry, awkward, even solipsistic, as any Middle American teenager. But as her activism intensifies her engagement with the complex politics of the Middle East deepens, and through her writings the intricacies of life under occupation come sharply into focus. Despite occasional awkward passages in the text in which Rachel is required to
give a background précis to the conflict, the character never comes across as preaching, indeed is quite self-effacing about her status as a well-intentioned Westerner, passionate about Gaza, but free to leave at any time. Mairi Phillips gives a wonderfully compelling performance, filling every corner of Neil Haynes’ claustrophobic set, and investing Rachel with an appealing sincerity, warmth and dynamism that makes her looming fate all the more poignant. (Allan Radcliffe)
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