The Dukes & Williamson Park presents
Tuesday 5 July 2016 - Saturday 13 August 2016
review by Alan Chard
Adapting any book for presentation as a play is challenging, and more so when the book has already been presented as a movie with a huge budget and all the special effects that are now available. Kevin Dyer has transformed Tolkien's book that has 19 chapters into a play that runs for almost 3 hours (with a 20 minute interval) and uses five unique outdoor locations in Williamson Park, Lancaster. The adaptation is true to the overall story and yet there are unexpected twists and turns in the story, so the audience should expect the unexpected!
The action begins at at Bilbo Baggins' home, where a delightful Hobbit House has been constructed amongst the grass and trees. The grass has had time to grow and be cut so there is an appearance of permanency about the whole scene. As the dwarfs make their appearance in penny-numbers, it's clear that this production has a larger cast than recent outdoor productions. In fact 16, including members of The Dukes Young Company who play Dwarves, Wood Elves and Goblins. The larger cast added significantly to the overall experience, especially in the visual sense. For example in this first scene groups of dwarves kept appearing and walking towards Bilbo's house, then a miscellany of stools and a table appeared until a roisterous party was taking place.
The setting, Williamson Park, is perfect for the scenes. Mature trees around grassy areas, deep shadowy woods and old quarry workings provide natural large spaces that are ready-made for transformation into Mirkwood and the dragon's lair. The Ashton Memorial provides a backdrop too, the steps littered with bones and creative use being made of some details that can escape casual attention. Other parts of Williamson Park enhanced the production greatly as we walked from scene to scene. Amongst the trees wood elves scurried and other members of the cast stood like statues. We were not walking through a park, we were part of the band of adventurers making their way through alien lands.
At no time did I find my attention wandering, in fact I needed to remind myself to look around to assess audience reaction. I was particularly pleased to see so many children amongst the audience. Their attention was held by the magic of theatre that we all experienced.
I've seen many of The Dukes' outdoor performances - this is one of the best.
Take a picnic, turn up early, enjoy the park then be transported to a land where magical things really happen.
Alan Chard, July 2016
The Dukes video trailer for The Hobbit