The Hobbit

Theatre Editor KIERAN CORCORAN can’t quite bring himself to savage these non-student amateurs like they deserve. But he maintains that they were really bad.

ADC theatre kieran corcoran The Hobbit The Hope Players Tolkien

ADC Theatre, 20th-23rd March, 7.45pm, £10-12

Directed by Anne Beaumont


This show wasn’t pleasant to watch. This review wasn’t pleasant to write, and might not even be all that pleasant to read. I can’t even warn anyone away, because the show sold out before it opened.

I feel even more uncharitable than usual in swatting down The Hope Players, a group of local amateurs ranging from bracey-toothed prepubescence to white-bearded venerability. But although I’m sure everyone had put a lot into the show, there was nowhere near enough confidence or ability on-stage to justify either the elaborate set and effects or higher-than-usual ticket price.

£10 could have paid for a ticket to the Best Mainshow and the Best Lateshow of last term. While that may seem an unfair comparison, the mere fact of The Hobbit‘s being at the ADC implies a certain level of competence, which was not delivered upon. The usual pitfalls of amateurism applied – inaudible lines, poor blocking, hiding behind props and letting tinned sound effects act for you.

But The Hope Players didn’t help themselves with their choice of play. While Tolkien associations probably have a lot to do with there being no tickets left, his novel has not been well-adapted. Perhaps it was never particularly suited in the first place.

A journey spanning huge amounts of time and space, goblin ambushes, a battle with a dragon and a deus ex machina rescue by giant eagles is never going to be easy to stage. Even the iconic riddle competition between Bilbo (Alex Barnes) and Gollum (Charlie Humphries) is strangely resistant to dramatisation.

The result – predictably – was a mess. Although Tolkien’s horde of thirteen rhyming dwarves had been cut down, Bilbo’s expedition was still seven strong and there were rarely fewer than ten people on-stage.

This became most glaringly an issue in the ‘fight’ scenes between Bilbo’s lot and five or six recurring goblins. Either completely unchoreographed or riddled with mistakes, they mostly consisted of combatants timidly staring at one another before realising they ought to have been killed and darting off into the wings.

The aesthetic was essentially a low-quality riff on the Lord of the Rings films. Gandalf’s (Andrew Parker’s) costume was the closest rehash, but the character who fared worst by this was doubtlessly Gollum. In poorly copying the distinctive guttural voice and jerky movements of the Hollywood interpretation, Charlie Humphries invites the most unfavourable comparisons to a role that has plenty of other possibilities.

There were more incompetencies and bizarre decisions (though I actually quite liked the cardboard-clad Irish Elrond), but it would be churlish to dissect them all, especially when there are good points.

The clearly talented Alex Barnes out-acted all of the adults by a considerable distance, managing to convey grown-up Hobbitude from his requisite teenage shortness. Occasional songs raised the calibre of performance somewhat. But ultimately these remain flickers of success in a largely failed production.

Luckily nobody (else) in the audience seemed to mind terribly. The 200 or so well-wishers were content to laugh along with every hiccup and heartily applaud basic completion.

The Hobbit is honestly and objectively bad, but this information probably won’t be a revelation to anybody involved or anyone watching. If nothing else, it’s an apt reminder of what the A in ADC stands for.