Rhys Edwards reviews The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show Live!
“It must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of the Thursdays”, Arthur Dent (Simon Jones) uttered to an eager crowd of Hitchhiker fans at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall. He was right. It was Thursday, and to the audience’s delight, as predicted, he very much struggled to get the hang of it. Whether it was his planet being demolished, being thrown out into space or his best friend being a rare alien from “somewhere in the facility of Beetlejuice”, an audience of young and old were in hysterics reliving this classic sci-fi tale.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show Live! stopped off at Cardiff last week on its national tour, bringing with it a slightly older, greyer cast along with welcome additions Mitch Benn as Zaphod Beeblebrox and the legendary actress Miriam Margolyes (probably most famous for questioning Will.i.am’s grammar on The Graham Norton Show). If there is one criticism to come out of what is an almost critic-proof production, it is that the show often feels like a spectacle that it doesn’t need to be. Filled with fast-moving lights, a live band and an underused big screen projector, you get the impression they really wanted to add another dimension to something that, when stripped back, is perfect enough on its own merit. Having said that, I’d predict 90% of its audience were loyal fans and had heard the material the cast were about to perform about as much as an ambulance driver has heard a siren, so I suppose a little reinvention doesn’t hurt anyone.
The radio incarnation of Douglas Adams’ classic novels has seen five series produced over 28 years. It’s gained a loyal following who are protective over their beloved hitchhiking fictional world. This has made it very difficult to reinvent these stories without severe backlash, something the 2004 feature film starring Martin Freeman proved when it received a less than warm reception from almost every fan. This is why it was a great relief and genuine surprise that the radio show live managed to present well known material from all series in a refreshingly unique fashion. It combined segments from across the years and managed to achieve the impossible in convincing its audience that it could all run into one story arc. It was consistently funny, relentlessly entertaining and wonderfully weird, everything which Adams intended it to be.
If you were to define the experience, it could be said to be somewhere between entertainment and nostalgia. But, for those who were newly introduced to the world of Arthur Dent and Vogon Constructor fleets, I imagine it would be bit like being drunk. You’re not 100% what’s happening or why, but you’re pretty sure about one thing: you like that it is happening.