at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Sunday 25th July 2010
I must confess that “The Lord of the Rings” books are far from a personal favourite of mine. They are dull, lengthy and full of ridiculously named characters. The films are not much better. Charles Ross’ “One Man Lord of the Rings” at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre, however, although based on terrible source material, is a lot of fun.
Ross doesn’t pretend that Tolkein’s books are the best ever written, nor that the films are masterpieces on celluloid. Many times throughout the 70 minute play he jokes that both use a great deal of artistic license and that in many cases the stories are extremely hard to follow. His script satisfies both geeks who know the films backwards and those of us who felt we would rather become an Orc than watch the nine hours of film again.
Under the direction of TJ Dawe, Ross contorts himself and his voice into the guise of a host of different characters, from deranged Gollum to a giant tree (I think they’re called Ents). He holds an immense amount of energy and harnesses this to highlight the most important bits whilst making these stories bearable to watch (for once). We move in an instant from the depths of the Shire to Helm’s Deep, without losing track of what’s happening.
There are many in-jokes, such as the length of Legolas’ hair and the relationship between Sam and Frodo, meaning that most of the script is only accessible to those who have seen the movies. Having seen the films only once, many of these references were lost on me, but the multitude of voices and characters is nevertheless a joy to watch.
“One Man Lord Of The Rings” will not change the world. Nor will it leave a lasting impression or be performed in fifty years’ time. It is nevertheless engaging and amusing, and Ross shows that “The Lord of the Rings” stories are best when they take up very little of our time.
A small note: If you are ever in Washington DC, the Woolly Mammoth is a theatre you must visit. It is the home of new plays and experimental work in the US. If not, you can listen to Woolly Mammoth radio for insights into life at the venue. Another must-do is a trip to the Kennedy Centre, which hosts free concerts every evening at 6pm local time. Again, if you are unable to visit you can watch live streaming every day at http://www.kennedy-center.org