Review: Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show Live!, Edinburgh Playhouse

Despite our “summer”, it was still a little odd to see so many of the Playhouse crowd carrying a towel on a Saturday night in late July.***

On this occasion, though, it was with a purpose, a towel being the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker could have.

To a prog rock take on the Doctor Who theme, the majority of the original cast of the radio series take the stage, joined by author Neil Gaiman, who gets a rock star welcome as the voice of The Book. Gaiman is a fan of the series, clearly, as is virtually everyone in the hall, and a palpable affection and goodwill radiates all around the Playhouse.

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The production is a show of two halves, with the first act being a reasonably faithful retread of the original, the second a compendium of bits from later incarnations and instalments. Both had their merits, the first saw us learn the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything.

The second half tried to wrap up all the narrative loose ends, while simultaneously acknowledging the impossibility – Arthur Dent’s knowing aside “it feels like entire chapters of my life are missing” was quite right. This could have freed the show up creatively, and there were a couple of attempts at updating things with contemporary references – a good Higgs Boson joke, for instance. More of that, in the right hands, might have been interesting.

It was an entertainingly silly jumble, featuring a cameo from US comedian John Hodgman of Daily Show fame. In honour of the great Adams, let us assume that there is a reality in which the plot carried sense, continuity and such like. Not on this timeline, but it didn’t matter a jot to the enthusiastic, 
devoted audience.

Their ovation was as much for Adams as it was for tonight’s performance. Hard to rate on the star scale this – a sentimental five, a four for fans, possibly a two for the uninitiated. But the latter could do worse than initiate themselves – a towel is not just for Edinburgh summertime, you know.