And so with my designated Samoan lawyer for the evening in tow we headed off in search of a Leake Street venue in Waterloo. In very unlike Hunter fashion we actually managed to make the event in good time.
I was questioning my lawyer’s advice on heading for the bar first when I saw the size of the queue. Was it even the right queue for Hunter’s Fear and Loathing? I ask a guy in the queue, he looks at me and in a foreign accent politely tells me that this is in fact ‘a queue’ while implying that most people have tickets and so not for a couple of chancers like me and my Samoan lawyer who obviously did not belong. Ah, good to know that reptilians are alive and well in London town.
We spot a door opening to what we think may be a side entrance to the play, result, we dive in, politely keeping the door open for a couple of female chancers. It takes all off 7 seconds to realise we are not at the Hunter play and in fact in some kind of Victorian candle lit affair. We bolt out again. After a little ‘press negotiation’ skills to enable jumping the queue we manage to get into the small venue which is packed out for the performance.
Image Space Rockets via Flickr
And so to the play. I remember before the release of the Terry Gilliam movie many thought the novel was just not transferable to the big screen. I actually thought Terry Gilliam did a pretty good job but my Samoan lawyer hated the film but after watching the play actually said for him it was better than the movie. Using only dialogue from the book the play was a faithful adaptation which for those who have not read the book may have been totally agreeable. Having re-read the book on numerous occasions I yearned for something more, a different spin, creativity in adaptation.
Image left, Rob Crouch (Dr Gonzo) right, Ed Hughes (Raoul Duke) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Vault Festival London 2014. Pic by Nobby Clarke
Ed Hughes, definitely looked the part as the main protagonist Raul Duke, but somehow lacked the crazed Hunterseque wild quality you would hope for. Rob Crouch, as Dr Gonzo, was always gonna have a tough task living up to the yardstick of Benicio del Toro’s performance in the film. Crouch did his best work in the bath, naked, when he was totally believable as the out-of-control lunatic feeling the effects of a twisted drug binge.
I thought the play may have missed a few tricks. For starters when they pick up what in the book is a wide eyed fresh faced impressionable hitch-hiker kid, in the play it’s a guy with a beard or a ton of stubble and looking as old as Duke and Dr Gonzo and so killing dead most of the humour of that scenario.
Image Hunter S Thompson via Wikipedia Creative Commons
The narrator, John Chancer, as an older Thompson, who occasionally walked on to the set worked OK but the reading verbatim from the book did not do it for me. The projections on the walls of Nixon footage and some of the book’s imagery and motifs were cool and could have possibly added another dimension rather than being purely a backdrop. The ensemble also provided some worthwhile flourishes.
I also thought the scenes when Duke and Gonzo are sitting in the midst of a drug law enforcement cops convention felt a little flat given the sublimely amusing and absurdity of the situation.
Due to the verbatim nature of the dialogue from the book I found myself just wanting to listen to Hunter’s words and not really engage fully with the stage performances which relegated the work to that of an audio-book.
Image ianmunroe via Flickr
All said and done, the performance was fun and for those coming to Fear and Loathing fresh probably more enjoyable with less lofty preconceptions attached to it. My Samoan lawyer made the observation that the continual drug fuelled antics are amusing and more acceptable in the book as part of a crazy out-of-control road trip but to see that performed live you just thought get a shave and go for dinner and sort yourself out.
The Great Brain Robbery party, part of the Vault Lates, after the play was good fun with a good mix of ages, party tunes and extremely good prices for double rums particularly given typical London South Bank prices. Suffice to say that the evening ended with a loss of a number of hours from leaving the venue to getting home – till now still unaccountable. The partial memory of possibly vocally abusing a number of black cab drivers and a manic Samoan whisking eggs like a lunatic at 5am. Hunter would have approved.
You can catch Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas till the 28 February 2014 at the Vaults Waterloo www.thevaultfestival.com
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