Despite the press that everything else “Tolkien-esque” is receiving, it almost passed unnoticed that “The Hobbit” was being performed at my local theatre, The Empire in Liverpool. Saturday was the final performance and it was Friday already. Sure enough, three tickets were promptly booked for the following evening. Myself, and my two companions settled down into the worst seats in the whole of the theatre, and with mixed reviews running through our minds, prepared ourselves for three hours of The Hobbit…
Overall, a very good performance and adaptation was presented. Michael Geary as Bilbo Baggins was everything I could have wanted and more. I don’t usually gush, but this guy was fantastic, he totally captured the essence of all things hobbity! His pose, his fumbling, and even his somewhat pompous expostulations were captured straight from Tolkien’s text. The 13 dwarves were shrunk to five, with Kili, Fili, Balin, Bombur, and of course Thorin, making the final cut. Despite this drastic reduction, it still worked and each dwarf showed their individuality on stage. Many of the dwarves songs were included, and a talented cast made sure that their interpretations were well sang.
The songs had a Celtic essence to them and on the whole were very refreshing. Gandalf held his own and had a authoritative presence on stage, but on the whole the show was stolen by Bilbo and the dwarves. The play was true to the text, Glyn Robbins did a very good job of adapting the story for the stage yet still retaining the needed detail and feeling present in the original text.
Things worth mentioning are the special effects (Smaug was indeed impressive, as was the Mirkwood spider dropping onto Bilbo from her web) the setting (simple yet very effective) and the dance!! The dancing and entertainment provide for the travellers at Beorn’s dwelling was the highlight of the show. The dance had a distinct Irish basis and yet again showed the versatility of the actors.
There are however, a few complaints. Apart from the amusing drunken wood elves “guarding” the prisoners in Mirkwood, I felt the elves were portrayed very poorly. Rivendell resembled an underwater kingdom, and Elrond had an uncanny likening to a lime green mermaid. Thranduil, Elven king of Mirkwood, did not impress me one bit. Also, parts of the play seemed to drag, especially the lengthy fight scenes.
However, all in all, a very good performance. It was wonderful to see how the passion of the actors brought Tolkien to life, in a very different way to the current films.
Since the book’s first publication in 1937, to this day The Hobbit – The Play captures the inner child in us all, and sends us back to Middle Earth as JRR Tolkiem first imagined it.
Catherine, Liverpool England