Douglas Adam’s “Guide” or, as he named it, a trilogy in five parts, began its life in book form but was soon turned into a radio show that earned a cult following. Once it made its way onto the television screen the cult audience grew and, as we file into the packed Theatre Royal Brighton, it appears that most of that audience are here. There will be nothing new tonight, for most it is just a reunion with a very special old friend.
The stage is set as if it were the radio studio and the performance that is about to take place is a, fairly genuine, representation of how the original show would have been broadcast. As well as a line of microphones to the front of the stage, there is also the sound effects desk and, to add something visual for the theatre audience, a huge video screen across the back.
There is also an onstage rock band and it is they who lead us into the performance with a rousing medley including the theme from Doctor Who and, of course, ending with the theme from the “Hitchhikers” TV show. They are accompanied by a lightshow that would not be out of place in an arena rock concert and the entire auditorium is soon bathed in a sea of multi-coloured lighting effects.
Tonight’s “Voice of the Book” – the celebrity performer changes regularly - is none other than world famous performance poet Roger McGough and, as he takes his seat across from the band, he is greeted by a massive cheer. As with all radio show recordings, the cast all hold copies of the script and, through the onstage fog, two script-carrying cast members are welcomed with an even bigger cheer.
Simon Jones and Geoff McGivern, the original Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect from the radio and TV shows may have, visually, succumbed to the ever advancing years but, as they start to speak, the audience is miraculously transported back to 1981 – as they sound just the same as they ever did and, as we have been informed that the entire “radio show” performance will be available to download in just a few days, the sound is the most important element.
Soon, our heroes are joined by some more familiar faces and voices. Mark Wing-Davey is back as the two-headed Zaphod Beeblebrox and the original Trillion, Susan Sheridan, is also here. There is one, very distinctive, voice that is still to appear and, as we hear the classic, “Here I am, brain the size of a planet”, possibly the biggest cheer of the evening is heard, as it is the voice of the original Marvin the Paranoid Android, Stephen Moore that booms out.
Marvin himself is not operated internally, as in the TV show, but has an external operator who moves him in much the same way as Timon in The Lion King is operated with his mechanical noises supplied by the onstage sound team and full credit goes to them, and the offstage team, for their simply perfect timing and their incredibly clever use of props to create certain noises.
As the performers cover most of all five books in the show, it’s almost impossible to relate it all here but, suffice it to say that everything you would expect is included. Tea, Babel fish, time travel, dressing gowns, Pan Galactic Gargleblasters, towels, Deep Thought, mice, Slartibartfast, Life, The Universe and Everything and, sadly, even some Vogon poetry.
Large parts of the original 1980s scripts are used to create a very authentic reproduction of the classic radio shows and, although a few audience members seemed a little lost, most will be downloading the show to get a second bite at a very tasty cherry.