The Hobbit on stage
- On February 23rd I went with another Tolkienian to see The Hobbit at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth (UK). It was a Vanessa Ford Productions presentation of Glyn Robbins' adaptation, and is directed by Roy Marsden. It is currently on tour in the UK.
Unless you really can't bear the idea of any adaptations of Tolkien in which case stay away you would have to be churlish not to enjoy this. It was fast and it was fun. It stayed as true as it could to the plot and the characters, given the constraints of live theatre. Tolkien's familiar words fell delightfully upon the ear. Wonders were worked with a couple of bits of revolving all-purpose set, draperies, explosions and flashing lights. Smoke billowed about promiscuously. Bilbo was taking in his laundry when he first encountered Gandalf, but I really did not mind (just think of setting up that wonderful Bag End interior only to have to dismantle it within minutes!).
They did a terrific job with Smaug, and also with the single, representative Mirkwood spider. Clumpy stony trolls, menacing goblins and were-wolf wolves were all fine. Amazingly quick changes were essential as most people played at least two parts. Sadly the single eagle was only a flash of feathery flutters, so I can't say how good it was one of those explosions got in the way!
The action shot by very fast no major episode was left out, but they did have to get the audience home on the same day that they arrived................. But we were compensated for the speediness by the casting and the interpretation of character. I would give 10/10 to Bilbo, 9/10 to Gandalf and Gollum, and 8/10 to everyone else.
Bilbo was played by Peter Howe, who I last saw as Sam in the LOTR musical in London (Theatre Royal Drury lane) and he was well cast. The only quibble I had with his interpretation or was it the Director's? was the all-purpose-rustic accent, a common mistake about hobbits. Christopher Robbie was a splendid and dignified Gandalf, so much so that it was disconcerting to see him in a different hat and cloak coming on briefly as the Master of Laketown. Christopher Llewellyn's Gollum was one of the highlights of the production.
Yes, there were things I would have liked to see done differently; the dwarves had dwindled in number to five, and Bombur, though greedy, was as slim as a rake. And the dwarves should have had longer beards. And why didn't they have a real river with a boat to cross it, instead of swinging from rock to rock with a rope? See? You can always pick holes, but you have to look at the art of the possible. The thrust of the exciting adventure came through, and with it the moments of poignancy and beauty. Yes, I sniffled when Thorin went to the Halls of Waiting. Even Elrond's arrival from the wings, standing on a garden swing on which he was gradually lowered down to his guests, did not in the end detract from his dignity.
Finally, we had a taste of Riverdance at no extra cost! Beorn's `entertainment' for his guests took the form of a dance by his variously animal-horned servants (all in humanoid form, those quick-changes again) into which the dwarves and Bilbo were cheerfully drawn. After the curtain-calls, Gandalf departed and the rest gave us the dance once more, just for fun.
More detailson www.thehobbittour.co.uk