Would Red Dwarf have existed without Hitchhikers? Had to say but it seems unlikely that Liverpool’s own Dave Lister would have made it to the screen were it not for Arthur Dent.

It’s just a little eddy in time that has rippled out from the Hitchhikers franchise – novels, radio shows, a Hollywood film and TV series; and now a live stage show.

There’s very much a greatest hits aspect to this stage show, which attempts to condense five books and/or adaptations worth of material into two and a half hours. That’s no mean feat and the fact that it doesn’t work especially well in that respect should not come as a surprise.

Anyone new to the basic set-up would leave scratching their heads in puzzlement, but that’s not really the point to be fair. To see Simon Jones, Geoffrey McGivern, Mark Wing-Davey, Susan Sheridan and hear Stephen Moore play out scenes and set pieces that were surely emblazoned onto the minds of virtually the whole audience 30 years ago was a massive treat.

The amusing sound design was an added bonus, though the visuals didn’t really come off. Nor did the live band or Roger McGough as The Book work as well as they might have. Magg’s decision to have the deliberately-annoying Share and Enjoy song played not once, but twice, should have been fed to the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.

All important reminders of how the original set-ups – the music by Paddy Kingsland, the voice of Peter Jones and the animations by Rod Lord – just seemed perfectly judged. Or perhaps a recognition that those old images and sounds are so bound up in a nostalgic haze.

While Dirk Maggs somehow managed to draw a line through most of the important bits – and allow the cast to do their things – the show ultimately was about a celebration of the wonderful work Douglas Adams and the people who brought it to life.

It’s something of a cliche to suggest that the radio adaptations are the best medium in which to listen to Hitchhikers; we’d go along with that. But some well-judged ‘live’ moments – the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster; Arthur being attacked by Agrajag and the moments when Marvin the Paranoid Android, a wonderful piece of design and function were on stage were quite wonderful.

And just hearing those voices and that music and those lines, animated by the original cast from the pen of Douglas Adams, was a treat on a par with dinner at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Radio Show
Empire Theatre
Until Tuesday 18 June

  • Peter Johnstone

    It was an extremely enjoyable, and very funny, night. The only thing that let it down was Roger McGough. I’d have thought Dirk Maggs would have checked first to see if the guest ‘Book’ for each venue could actually read!

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