The words ‘Middle Earth will come alive in the auditorium 15 minutes before the performance’ sent a chill down my spine. I like my theatre action confined to the stage and I loath audience participation. Coupled with a running time of 3 hours, quite a few of us in the office were regretting having agreed to go to see ‘Lord of the Rings’ last night. But it was free and it is good to remind ourselves what our industry is all about from time to time.
We steeled ourselves with a couple of cocktails beforehand (Tip: Maxwells in Covent Garden is tacky and touristy, but if you are looking for cheap Bellini on a Monday night, this is the place) and thankfully missed most of the pre-show ‘entertainment’.
The most striking thing about the show was the staging. The set was f***ing fantastic – I don’t possess the vocabulary to describe it any other way – it was that good. I always tend to compare these things with my time as an ASM at an amateur theatre that liked to think of itself as putting on things to a professional standard. Well, if they thought me ‘striking’ a table between acts or straining to turn round a backdrop whilst dressed in black as comparable with anything like this, then they clearly haven’t been to a proper theatre in quite some time. There was a giant spider thing (I don’t know what it was called – I’m sure most LOTR’s fans would – I’ll admit I’ve only seen the films) was terrifying and I’m glad I was quite a way back.
But the rest of it didn’t match up. The plot was kind of just skimmed over so much so that people who hadn’t seen the films said they struggled to follow it - not that I’d want a 9 hour version, but a little more depth would have been good. There is meant to be a narrative – in a way it has ended up more as a spectacle like a Cirque De Soleil with Hobbits.
And it is supposed to be a musical. It wasn’t really a full-on musical - the songs were folksy little numbers that were apparently taken from the book but did nothing to further the plot and were wholly unmemorable. As someone who was practically raised on the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, I expect the songs to stick in my head and for a few of them to at least stand up outside of the production. I can’t see anyone rushing to buy the soundtrack nor can I hear anyone humming any of the tunes this morning.
All in all, I’m glad I want to see it, but I’m also glad I didn’t pay for it.