· Posted: 22 Jan 2006 01:10 · Edited by: jock123
I’ve just been to the final performance, and have to say that the whole thing is/was a credit to Hergé, his books and the overall memory of his creation.
Having seen the show in its previews [about the third performance], and now again as it closed, I can make a few comparisons between what I saw.
Over all the final show was a lot tighter, and didn’t run quite so long: not only was this due to the technicalities of raising and lowering the ’plane wreckage through the trapdoors in the stage having been sorted out, but there were several small places where the action was clarified or refined.
The most important - to me - was that the ascent of the mountain-side, to get Chang’s scarf, was now a lot easier to follow.
In both versions the actors are riggged with harnesses, and mimed the action of climbing, while being hoisted aloft, facing the audience (the point of view of the audience is thus from “inside” the mountain.
Where the preview made things complicated was that the actors didn’t have a real rope between them, so when Haddock “fell”, he just seemed to be dangling in his harness, which in “reality” wouldn’t have been there. The peril that Tintin was in and Haddock’s attempt at cutting the rope was difficult to convey; likewise the rescue staged by the returned Tharkey.
When you added that (the human) Snowy was also making the climb, there was rather too much busy work going on, most of which looked like people just dangling on wires, waving at each other.
Tonight the action was helped no end by the use of a real rope, which made the situation properly tense - Tintin was being pulled, trapped by the rope, rather than just swinging upside down, and Haddock was dangling appropriately. Snowy was also much higher up, pulled into the top of the stage, making the action focus on Tintin and Haddock.
In the preview this then led into a sequence where the heroes, in continuing the ascent (still in the rigging) become exhasted and starved of air, and start to hallucinate; this took the form of a chorus comprised of the detectives, Calculus, Castafiore and Nestor (seen before in the opening dream) coming on and standing on the stage beneath the climbers, in what is basically a song for Haddock (I think that Tintin got a verse too, but I can’t recall properly), but it was difficult to tell who was exactly having the problem, what that problem was, and if climbers could all see the same thing. It also didn’t quite work that Haddock managed to do a little hornpipe while “climbing” a mountain.
The revised version tonight had the cast descend with Tharkey to stage level, and only become exhausted once out of the rigging; they then had to crawl through a snow-storm (which used real flakes falling from the top of the proscenium), and the delusional Haddock was greeted by Nestor, who told him that he was inside the Captain’s head. At that point the chorus appeared behind the mountain range scenery at the back of the stage, and Haddock’s song and little dance were done, with Tharkey and Tintin trying to calm him. It was thus much clearer that Haddock was the one with the dream this time, and that the others were concerned for his well-being.
The cleverest change in many ways was that Blessed Lightning actually levitated when he had the vision holding scarf, which he didn’t do the first time I saw it - and without obvious rigging! There was a barely discernable flap in the panel of the monastery wall against which he stood, so there must have been a concealed mechanism, but the effect was both surprising and well executed, so it wasn’t obvious how it was done.
The theatre was totally packed, and the reception was rapturous, so it was fitting that the powers that be had apparently chosen this as a performance to video; this was being done for the company archive to preserve the production, rather than to put out for the public, but it is good to know that it has been saved as a treasure for future Tintinologists to study. I hope they caught the Yeti’s dancing during the curtain calls!
Also Russel Tovey will join the original cast of Alan Bennet’s The History Boys for three final (sold out!) performances in London, before heading Down Under for the Australian tour of that play - so if you didn’t get to see him as Tintin, at least Aussie members might be able to see him in that!