Trivia Challenge Score Keeper
· Posted: 2 Dec 2005 19:13
I saw the play yesterday (Dec 1st), and these are my current thoughts.
If you're going to see the play please be warned:
* SPOILERS BELOW! *
I’ll start with good news for the fans: in terms of the story’s plot, this adaptation doesn’t take too many liberties. All the scenes are more or less in their original sequence, and the only parts cut are ones too challenging to be reproduced successfully on stage: the stopover in Delhi with Haddock’s ride on the sacred cow, for example. Alarm-bells began to rang when I noticed in the programme that there would be portrayals of Calculus (more so than in the book), Bianca Castafiore, Nestor and the Thompsons, but they only appear in dream sequences – usually where the characters wish to be back among the ‘old crowd’ in Marlinspike – and their scenes remain incidental to the plot.
The play is aimed primarily at children, who outnumbered the adults ten-to-one in the audience, and this becomes obvious a little way through. In keeping the youngsters entertained, the adaptation is marked – though I wouldn’t say ‘marred’ – by a fair few unsubtleties that you won’t find in Hergé’s work. There is an extended flatulence sequence (gaining perhaps the biggest laugh of the show), a great deal of slapstick, and a drunken Snowy even urinates off the stage (beware in the front row!). Slightly unnervingly, the crashed plane is strewn with corpses who re-animate to plead Tintin to help them. The kids obviously revelled in the macabre nature of it all, though it did make me appreciate how well Hergé portrays horror and threat implicitly. I understand that an earlier draft of the script included a severed head at this point, an idea which the producers appear to have thought better of, probably wisely.
I couldn’t find fault with any of the cast, several of whom play multiple characters, or are talented multi-instrumentalists, or both. Some may not portray the character in exactly the way us fans might have seen them, but largely the performances were sound. They also proved fairly adept at singing, often a capella, and the ‘Hotel des Sommets’ scene near the beginning included some wonderful Fifties-style ‘doo-wop’ that detunes as Tintin nods off from his chess game. Particuarly entertaining were Nicola Blackwell (resplendent with an enormous frontage as Castafiore), Mark Lockyer as the aforementioned belligerent porter (who had the kids in stitches with his claim to be Katmandu’s body-building champion), and Simon Trinder whose earnest yet mischeivous face was perfect for Snowy. Russell Tovey shone as our hero and Sam Cox was the eternal curmudgeon as Haddock – both difficult roles for different reasons, but performed with confidence.
The production has no truly serious mis-steps. In the sequence in which Haddock falls off the rockface and hangs from a rope held by Tintin (an important scene in the book), the theatrical device used, though imaginative, wasn’t effective enough to convince me that they were in mortal danger. In fact, the youngsters found the whole thing quite amusing and the drama was lost. Neither does the Yeti have the same threatening presence as in the book, though understandably there is a shortage of ten-foot actors to take on the role. It was unfortunate that the technical problems that have caused the previews to be postponed for two days reoccurred during the show, though to be fair they were anticipated, as Rufus Norris explained before it started, and the hiatus was only five minutes. The structure of the aircraft wreckage rises from below the stage at the appropriate point, but what appeared to happen is that the trapdoors failed to open fully and had to be manually lifted by stage-hands. However this was more than compensated for by the design of the wreckage itself, which was minimalist but visually very arresting. The sound console also broke down temporarily, but apart from a few loud pops and crackles – unfortunate for those by the speakers – this wasn’t noticeable.
In terms of pacing, I’m happy to say that the producers have got the first half spot-on. From the moment it begins the action is gripping, as a dream sequence from Tintin turns into a fight with four samurai swordsmen. This simultaneously reflects the history of Tintin and Chang’s friendship from The Blue Lotus, and introduces Tintin as having an adventurous spirit (as if you didn’t know!). From here until the interval, there is enough humour and excitement to keep everyone entertained. The street scenes in Katmandu, in particular, are superbly performed and choreographed. Unfortunately the second half, which is shorter than the first, seems longer as the pace noticeably slackens off. This is not helped by a rather tedious musical number, apparently on the side of the rockface where earlier the characters were in grave danger, in which the characters sing about wishing to be back home. As the show’s end approached the young audience were noticeably unsettled.
These niggles are largely minor and most, I am sure, can and will be improved upon. I saw the first preview performance and this is often used as a test to see how the audience reacts before the true run starts. In this case the cast and crew have a fortnight to make the necessary tweaks before the Press night. But even in this earliest stage of performance (according to Rufus Norris, this was the first time it had been acted all the way through), there were enough laughs, surprises and imaginitive ideas to make successful entertainment for two hours, and I can thoroughly recommend it especially if you have children to take.
As a final word, an honourable mention must go to whoever played Snowy in his canine incarnation (either Chester, Lily or Ollie). The opening stunt in which he transforms into Simon Trinder is an old joke, but beautifully done, and it certainly fooled the audience. If anyone wants to know what happens, perhaps I’ll make a post further into the run as the surprise is too good to ruin!
* SPOILERS END *
That's all for now, I'm sure other thoughts will come to me and I'll post them here, but I'll wait for others to share their views first.