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The Adventures of Tintin: Young Vic production at London Barbican, Christmas 2005

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UK Correspondent
#61 · Posted: 11 Jan 2006 18:59
I saw the show yesterday, and thought it was superb. If I may be permitted to offer my opinion...

I was amazed how faithful it was to the book - moreso than the TV series, considering the amount of time spent in Kathmandu. The production was really imaginative, making the most of a fairly small stage to great effect. I was especially impressed by the plane wreckage and the mountain ascent on cables - extremely well acted, although I agree with Ed in an earlier post about the lack of dramatic tension in the 'dangling' scene. Russell Tovey (Tintin) did well to maintain that pose for so long, though, and Tom Wu (Tharkey) rescuing Haddock was very well performed.

I thought that the first act did well in setting up the story, especially the dream at the beginning and the hotel scenes (loved that singing!), and thought the way one scene flowed into another naturally very successful. It made a change from a lot of shows where the scenes are practically announced; instead you seemed to move with the story and follow it closer. The second act really hit the ground running, my favourite scenes probably being the ones in the monastery if only for the brief look into Tintin's psyche. "I was looking for a friend" -- "You must be very lonely" struck me as being more than just a gag.

The theatre was practically full when I went, a school seemed to have booked most of the stalls. My first thought was how come I never got to go on such great school trips. The show seemed to hold everyone's attention throughout, complete silence as soon as the second half started. I was seated in the upper circle and had an excellent view of the stage.

It was nice to see the little in-jokes mentioned earlier in this thread - I purposefully didn't read any of the reviews on here until after I'd seen it - and realised I'd had a grin on my face for around five minutes after hearing the theme tune excerpt on the trumpet.

I didn't have any gripes with some of the changes made to the story, Tharkey's decision to go because of his brother was touching and really worked, especially with the prayer flags. The moment in the monastery where Tintin accepts Chang's death and gives the scarf to Blessed Lightning to fly and asks him to say a prayer was incredibly moving; there was total silence at this point.

Hats off to all the actors, everyone was superb and played their parts perfectly. It was unusual to hear a clear, non-gruff Haddock after all the TV and film adaptations, but it worked. Tintin's accent didn't bother me, if anything I think it added some humanity to the character by making him appear more of the everyman than Hergé showed him as.

That's my two penn'orth then, a superb show of which Hergé would have been proud, I believe.
#62 · Posted: 12 Jan 2006 11:07

I have only just joined & have not seen the show, but everyone seems to have forgotten "Tintin in America" that was staged in London at the Unicorn Theatre to coincide with the book being published in the UK, probably 1976. I loved it then! So the Barbican show is not the first!

Happy New Year.
Harrock n roll
#63 · Posted: 12 Jan 2006 15:45
everyone seems to have forgotten "Tintin in America" that was staged in London at the Unicorn Theatre to coincide with the book being published in the UK, probably 1976. I loved it then! So the Barbican show is not the first!

Thanks Quentin and welcome to the forums!

The play you mention might have been called Tintin’s Great American Adventure adapted by Geoffrey Case. There's a thread here which mentions it. You might like to share any memories you have about it over at that thread, I'm sure people would be interested to read it!

As for myself, I've not seen the Barbican show either yet (I'm leaving it a little late, I know). However I booked tickets today and noticed that only restricted view seats are left now, at least according to the website.

I was a bit annoyed with myself for not booking it earlier (esp. as I live only 20 minutes away from the Barbican) so I emailed them asking whether there was a possibilty of exchanging them for better ones should someone else cancel. They rang back immediately and told me that many of the seats were block booked by schools and they had quite a few seats left in the centre, which is where I'm now going to be sitting!

So for anyone else that has left it ridiculously late (like me), or just wants to see it again, it might be better to book by phone to avoid filling the restricted view seats which the Barbican website says are left.
Trivia Challenge Score Keeper
#64 · Posted: 12 Jan 2006 16:46
Great review Richard, we seem to be largely in agreement as to the show's strengths and (few) weaknesses. I take it that there have been no further technical hitches since the previews? Perhaps someone who saw it later in the run can confirm this.

UK Correspondent
#65 · Posted: 12 Jan 2006 21:24
I take it that there have been no further technical hitches since the previews? Perhaps someone who saw it later in the run can confirm this.

There were no problems that I saw, the plane wreckage rose out of the stage mechanically and to great effect. The sound was in full working order too - a superb use of acoustics. From Chang's opening cries of "Tintin!" echoing around the theatre, it was clear that a lot of care and attention had been paid to the sound.
rue du labrador
#66 · Posted: 21 Jan 2006 16:53
I saw the show on its second to list night and was totaly impressed!
It changed my whole perspective, and made Tintin feel far more real than ever.
My fears had been that a lot of the emotion would have been drained in order not to distress young children, or that it would be too action packed and shallow, but it was very much neither of those - a perfect balance.
#67 · Posted: 22 Jan 2006 01:10
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!
Trivia Challenge Score Keeper
#68 · Posted: 22 Jan 2006 21:01
That's fascinating, thanks jock! I didn't get to see the show later in its run, but it's interesting to hear the revisions that were made. I also thought that the rockface scene was the one thing most in need of tightening up, so it's good to hear that they obviously felt the same way (as did a few other people, I've heard). I don't know why they didn't use a real rope between Tintin and Haddock in the previews - at the time I thought perhaps there was an issue with safety - but it makes more sense to include it simply for clarity.

I do regret missing out on Blessed Lightning's levitation though!

#69 · Posted: 23 Jan 2006 10:08
Thanks, Ed. Yes, the rope made a lot of difference to the scene; my guess is that as the scene as played is largely mime, and therefore all the mountaineering equipment required isn’t seen, it might have been felt that the use of a real rope wasn’t necessary, or would spoil the rest of the illusion.

However the practical rope wasn’t intrusive, and set the scene better. I might even have gone so far as to have Tintin “hoist” Snowy on it, as exactly how a terrier is meant to scale a cliff wasn’t explained…

I’m sure there must have been other bits too - the problem is, without evidence, it’s hard to know what was a change, what was merely something that went wrong during the preview, now performed correctly, and what is my faulty memory. Obviously the cast will just have got better at some bits with more rehearsal and practice.

For example Tintin seemed to get in and out of the wreckage a lot easier this time, but was that due to the wreckage being better placed, Russell Tovey having perfected his entry and exit, or was he told to spend less time doing it?

The show-down between Haddock and “The Body-building Champion of Kathmandu” also seemed to be shortened, but then again, it may have been an extended ad-lib at the preview to cover some other technical event off-stage.

I also think that some of the sound effects were less extreme - on the preview I saw, the yeti roars and Chang’s haunting calls were apt to reduce the smaller children present to cowering and even a bit of crying, not so this time - but I wasn’t in the same place in the theatre, and the levels might have been the same.

I’d also guess that there were fewer mentions of how “useless” Tintin was - I’d reckon that there was a bit from the chorus during the second hallucination/ dream repeating the “useless!” refrain from the start, which didn’t seem to appear again (it didn’t seem right at the earlier performance, as it was getting a little late dramatically to say that he wasn’t useful when obviously he was). However I couldn’t be certain enough of that to state it as a fact.

Oh, and there was one “flaw” with the production - they seem to have woefully under-estimated the demand for programmes!

According to one usher they were each being given only ten to sell by the end of the run, and were reduced to giving away photocopied cast-sheets. There were quite a few disappointed little faces at the end of the show looking for a souvenir…! I don’t even know if the address posted above will have them any more.
#70 · Posted: 24 Jan 2006 13:14
The cleverest change in many ways was that Blessed Lightning actually levitated... ...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...

When I saw him stand against the wall in the preview show I was convinced he was about to levitate. But he didn't, so I suspect the mechanism was planned all along but not working for the previews.

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