onemanlotrRinger Aleta writes: I attended the One Man Lord of the Rings show last night at the Edinburgh Fringe Udderbelly, written and performed by Charles Ross, and here is my report:

To set the mood for you, the show was performed at the Fringe’s Udderbelly theater – which is a giant steel-framed tent shaped like an upside down purple cow and holds 400 people. There was a party atmosphere all around the Udderbelly Pasture, with hundreds of people milling around cheerfully, each with a large plastic cupful of beer or bottle of water in hand. Inside the theater the music from the Lord of the Rings films wafted through, competing with the merry voices as people chose their seats. As a smallish venue, there couldn’t be a bad seat in the house.

I had joined front of the queue with my 15-year-old daughter about 45 minutes before the show so that I could sit in the front row and center — where we were happily ensconced just inches from the floor-level stage and within possible spitting distance of the actor.

Having only recently received permission from New-Line to perform the show, Charles Ross later mentioned that he had been just a bit concerned that he might have ended up doing an encore of the one Man Star Wars show this year. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case and the eager audience seemed well pleased as they cheered him onto the stage at the beginning, with an enthusiastic send-off at the finish.

Right from the beginning it was evident that Charles Ross is no slouch! He dove into the task at hand like an Olympic swimmer diving into the pool and his level of energy never slipped the entire way through the performance. The description of a “diving” is apt, as he literally dove into the parts! Underneath his one-piece workman’s suit he protects his knees and elbows with protective pads to protect him from the bounding leaps, rolls and falls of each character he is bringing to life at any given moment. I was both surprised and impressed by how physically demanding the performance was. He only took two 30-second breaks the entire time (between each part of the trilogy) to wet his whistle with a few sips of water.

He displayed a gift for impersonation as the voices of the movie actors spilled onto the stage. If I had closed my eyes (which I dared not for fear of missing something) I could have believed that Charlie had persuaded Ian McKellan, Elijah Wood or Sean Astin to join him on stage. He can also carry a tune with the best of them as the story was sewn together with the recognizable film tunes, often embellished in a humorous manner (it is a comedy show after all). He had Gollum down to a T with both voices and mannerisms. I am certain that Andy Serkis would be pleased.

Sometimes the action moved so quickly that I had to try hard to figure out where we were within the story, but there was never a dull moment. Occasionally Edinburgh did not want to cooperate with Middle Earth as a plane flew overhead, the noise from the crowds outside ebbed and flowed or a motorcycle sped by. He showed his acting skills by effortlessly incorporating his dialogue to comment on those. He was able to switch smoothly between the serious bits and humor as well. I have to admit that on occasion I forgot that I was watching one actor on an empty stage with colored lights and I was tugged right into the story.

Seeing this show was like watching the best bits of the trilogy, but almost like seeing the whole thing packed neatly into an hour. To those who know the books and films it feels like sharing an inside joke between pals, and to those who don’t, they’ll be entertained nonetheless.

I hung around to meet Mr. Ross after the performance and he was very engaging and patient as we shouted our conversation above the surrounding party-charged crowd. I was pleased to see his enthusiasm about Professor Tolkien and Lord of the Rings as well. After our talk he excused himself to join the revelers and sit down to enjoy a cool glass of water or perhaps something stronger. He deserved it.

Edinburgh, Scotland
8 August 2009