‘This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.’
On this particular Thursday, York’s Grand Opera House found itself packed to the rafters with a strange collection of carbon-based life forms: hairy ageing rockers, geeks, freaks and other weird and wonderful Earth creatures all clamouring to see the original radio cast of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy perform Douglas Adams’ comic sci-fi tale.
Here’s what The Hitchhiker’s Guide has to say about itself: To call Adam’s legacy ‘enduring’ would be as big an understatement as calling a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster ‘invigorating’. The popularity of the sci-fi adventure comedy has lasted (so far) thirty-four years, six books, a popular TV series, a computer game, a bunch of comic books and a blockbuster movie. Talk about multimedia.
In an age where the concept of ‘media platforms’ is bandied round every mission statement from Marvel to Starbucks, you’d think the concept had just been invented. But Adams got there a long time ago. THHGTTG began life as a radio show before continuing its long journey across the galaxy of media, culminating in this latest incarnation; essentially the original cast standing around reading scripts into microphones. Which in fact proved to be quite a wonderful, funny and ultimately rather moving experience.
On this muggy, sweaty evening, the dulcet tones of Arthur Dent’s (Simon Jones) very British lament about Thursday received a huge round of applause for its uncanny accuracy. As did just about every one of Adams’ witty observations about Earth people’s tea obsession and silly names like Eccentrica Gallumbits and Zaphod Beeblebrox (the original and best Mark Wing-Davey). This was ostensibly a show for the fans, with in-jokes galore (the moment where Arthur exclaims, ‘I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle’ was not elaborated upon, save for a sudden bright light which fans will know represents terrible interstellar war in a distant galaxy caused by Arthur’s comment rocketing through a wormhole) but seemed to please everyone in that hot, sticky room.
At some points the show felt like being at a Red Dwarf convention and that we were a bunch of geeky old hipsters at our own fan club meeting. That was all part of the charm. From the very start, when The Eagles’ ‘Journey Of The Sorcerer’ was belted out by the live band, and the actors walked out on stage – including Only Fools And Horses star John Challis as The Book, who at one point lapsed into a well-timed Boycie impression – to the grand finale involving a song by a brilliantly-puppeteered Marvin the Paranoid Android, this was a celebration of Adams’ spirit, crackling observations about the human spirit, Britishness and joie de vivre. With a canny Higgs Boson gag thrown in.
It’s easy to forget that before Red Dwarf and before Blackadder, Adams had nailed the daft dialogue, eccentric but identifiable characters and outrageous plots to create a fictional world that has now lasted for decades and, from the odd sensation of leaving the theatre wanting further Hitchhiker’s adventures, would be more than welcome to last a few more.