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9:01pm on Thursday, 9th August, 2007:

Dancing Orcs


We finally went to see the Lord of the Rings musical in London today.

OK, well the real star was the revolving, splitting, rising-and-falling stage. It worked very well, and seemed more natural than you might expect. It had a centre circle, then a ring of 8 irregular segments, then another ring of 8 more irregular segments that lined up with the first lot, and then an outer ring. I guess someone had some idea of a "ring" metaphor there...

There were also some neat special effects and illusions, and the lighting was generally effective. They used some kind of defocused, textured spots on the main characters that gave them a musty glow most of the time, which looked pretty good. The music was a little too out-of-the-speakers even for my lousy sense of hearing, and the tunes weren't exactly hummable. I can remember the first three notes of one of them without having to think about it, but that's all.

The cast: they recruited a bunch of shorter actors for the hobbits, and taller actors for the humans, so giving a reasonable impression of relative heights. The one dwarf, Gimli, was like a hobbit in a helmet. Boromir was Scottish, the hobbits were from Bristol and there were some Russian elves early on, I don't know what happened to those. Everyone else was regular RP English, except Treebeard the Ent who was from Yorkshire (yay!).

Individual performances: Malcolm Storry was very good as Gandalf. He spoke as if he were Jeremy Brett in Sherlock Holmes, but it seemed to work. The only weird bit was when he seemed temporarily to metamorphosise into a schoolgirl when he joined the Fellowship. Still, he's from Hull, so I forgive him. Michael Therriault was pretty good as Gollum, except for not saying "gollum", but he wasn't on stage a great deal. He was imported from the Toronto version of the show, and I can see why. The other performers were fine; none really stood out for being either exceptionally good or noticeably bad.

Galadriel had a rather larger role than I was expecting. It was as if someone merely needed to say her name and she appeared from nowhere to sing about Lothlorien. Oh, talking of her, here are two pictures from the programme:


Are those the same actress? The one in profile looks really pretty and delicate, but the one full on looks as if she's trying to be the White Queen out of Narnia. Not that I could tell either way — from where I was sitting, she looked like this:

Hmm, or maybe that's Gandalf, hard to tell at this distance...

Finally, the plot: if you haven't read the books or seen the film, you would have no idea what was going on. Fortunately, every person in the country has done one or the other or both, so it doesn't matter. Nevertheless, enormous chunks of narrative were missing: Rohan and Gondor were coalesced into one, and the battles were reduced to orc dance routines. Basically, every time there was an extended set piece song, the opportunity was taken to tear 50 or 60 pages out of the books and throw them away.

Still, it was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, and I'm glad we went.

Best part: other than a name-check at the end, no Tom Bombadil!

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Copyright © 2007 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).