Friday, 26 February 2010

'One Man Lord Of The Rings' - review

One Man Lord Of The RingsBy Charles Ross
Lichfield Garrick Theatre, February 25th 2010
Review by Jonathan Hicks
Going on stage in front of a huge audience to perform in live theatre can be daunting. Going on stage on your own with no scenery or costumes and only light cues to support you must be terrifying.
You don’t get any indication of fear from Charles Ross, the man who bought you ‘One Man Star wars’ over the last few years. When the lights go down there’s no waiting, no pause. Before your eyes even begin to adjust to the gloom you see the faint shadow of a man strut on to stage and stand in the centre, his voice whispering the opening lines of Peter Jackson’s first Lord of the Rings movie ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’. The lights come up, the first joke is cracked, and the re-enactment begins.
Now, we’re not talking about a full-length line-for-line copy of the movies here. That would be mad. What Charles Ross has done is take segments of the films, those snippets that you remember for both their visual impact and memorable dialogue, and strung them together to create more than an hour’s worth of fast-moving and extremely funny material, all delivered breathlessly (well, almost) by a solitary figure throwing himself about with abandon on a bare stage.

He manages to convey each character exceptionally well, not only through the voice acting but also through visual cues – throughout this entire show it’s just him on an empty stage with a black boiler suit on – so when he takes on the role of a certain character he stands in a certain way or does a simple mime. With Gandalf he held an imaginary staff, with Legolas he would run his fingers through invisible long and well-kept hair, with Gimli he’d stoop. Even Treebeard had a stance that made him instantly recognisable, with Charles expanding his body outwards as far as he could and taking long thumping strides. Even without these visual aides his voice acting was excellent, especially Frodo and Gollum, and his Saruman was almost perfect.

The show requires some knowledge of the books to help the audience through, even more so the films as some of the movements and even facial expressions mirror the performances given by the actors in the movies. That’s part of the show’s cleverness – the fact that Charles Ross has obviously watched the moves over and over to help perfect his performances and judge what lines to use based on their importance and impact (and it was no doubt the Extended Editions he watched as at just the right moments during the performance he would slip in the line ‘change the DVD’).

His jokes were well-timed and spot on (I won’t go into detail as to what they were as that’d just ruin it for you) and they caused chuckles to belly laughs to outright laughter. He received more than once a well-deserved round of applause for his jokes, especially the little jokes he’d just slip in here and there to accentuate an already funny performance. Even lines from the movies were getting laughs.

After the show and the very long round of applause he graciously received from a very appreciative audience he sat down and told us about how this show came about, and there were even a couple of surprises in this little informal chat he seemed to behaving with us. This story, with him sat cross-legged on the stage with a half-empty bottle of water made the whole thing seem very intimate and put a fantastic full stop to a funny and entertaining evening.

So, I came away a happy and thoroughly entertained man. I’m great lover of Lord of the Rings – I’ve been a fan of it since 1979 – so I’m usually critical of interpretations of it, but considering that I’m a lover of the movies and this one man show is his comedy version of those movies then there wasn’t anything in this show I didn’t enjoy. You have to know the movies or the book to fully appreciate it, but then you wouldn’t be going to se something like this unless you already knew them.
I’m a huge Lord of the Rings fan, and I can’t recommend this show enough.
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