Christopher Robbie as Gandalf
Liverpool Empire Theatre
8 June 2010 WOS Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews This production was reviewed at an earlier stop in Manchester. The younger generation, accustomed to the current high production values on Doctor Who, may have lost the knack of suspending disbelief and accepting that a quarry in Wales is meant to be Mars or the corridors of Broadcasting House are a space station. If they want to find out what they missed, then they could try Vanessa Ford’s production of J R R Tolkien’s The Hobbit as this play reproduces Middle- Earth, giant spiders and a dragon on a very limited budget. Hobbit Bilbo Baggins ( Christopher Llewellyn) is taken from his comfortable life by sorcerer Gandalf ( Christopher Robbie) on a quest to capture objects stolen by the dragon Smaug that will restore rightful king Thorin Oakenshield ( Andrew Coppin) to the throne. Glyn Robbins’ adaptation is very respectful of the source material. He goes a bit too far though and seems reluctant to leave out any incident. As a result the first half of the show becomes over-long and instead of generating suspense the trials that the brotherhood endure start to blur together and lose meaning. Director Roy Marsden occasionally manages to inject a degree of humour into the show (the defeat of the trolls is very funny) but, in the main, the sheer scale of the material limits him to ensuring that what is on stage makes sense and doesn’t look silly. The writer and director ensure that the songs and dances that Tolkien emphasised are used in the show. This is not always successful – at one point it seems that the cast have just decided to have a quick line dance; an impression made more strong by the limited costumes that make them look like lumberjacks. The cast play multiple roles often in costumes that conceal their features. As a result few make any real impression. Robbie is an avuncular Gandalf but tends to resort to waving his arms around and pointing a bit too often. Coppin manages to show how the responsibilities of command lead to a morally ambiguous attitude to his followers and Llewellyn brings out the simple honesty of Bilbo. The music by Mark Bloxsidge is generic rather than original but well used to add atmosphere. You can’t help but feel, however, that it is being utilised to bring a sense of urgency to scenes that otherwise lack drama. Like other recent plays in the fantasy genre The Hobbit uses puppets to create fantastic creatures on-stage. The results are variable. The giant eagle looks silly in flight but the monstrous spider and, especially, Smaug the dragon are terrific. David Shields' set of two revolving pieces allows the show to move swiftly through a range of locations with little time lost. Fans will find little to complain about in this over-faithful adaptation of The Hobbit. It does feel, however, that in concentrating on reproducing the text onstage the adaptors have missed the spirit of the book. - Dave Cunningham Related Content Back to Northwest Homepage
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