One-man Star Wars Trilogy, Alnwick Playhouse, Tuesday, September 27.
TAKE one man dressed in a black boiler suit, armed only with a headset microphone, combine it with three of the most popular films ever made and what do you get? A tour-de-force, that’s what.
And Charles Ross’s whirlwind escapade through the original Star Wars trilogy had a packed Alnwick Playhouse hanging on his every word, action and sound effect, which the Canadian actor did single-handedly and without any props.
Echoing eponymous hero Luke Skywalker, Ross – a self-confessed farmboy who has watched the films hundreds of times since the age of three – blasted his way through the whole saga in just 60 minutes, taking the audience on an affectionate journey to that galaxy far, far away.
What makes his show work so well is that the absence of any visual stimulus, other than Ross himself, fires the imagination and you can actually picture the scenes as they unfold at near-lightspeed.
He captures all the characters perfectly, not only in the way he delivers the dialogue exactly as it was in the films, but also in their mannerisms, which he often accentuates to bring out the beautiful absurdity and unintentional humour of the story.
Ross’s impression of Skywalker was uncanny, down to the face-twisting agony of his near-fatal showdown with Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back, but it was his R2-D2 whistle which really had fans wide-eyed in amazement.
His Yoda was also hilariously accurate, as was evil Emperor Palpatine – particularly the laugh.
And to further fully immerse the audience in the Star Wars experience, he also provided all the sound effects, from the hum of the lightsabers to the engines of Tie Fighters and X-Wings, the roar of Chewbacca and, of course, the laboured mechanical breathing of villainous Vader.
Overlap that with John Williams’ iconic score – yes, Ross did all the music as well – and you have the biggest sci-fi phenomenon in history condensed into a single man in a boiler suit.
Highlight of the night for me was the scene featuring a frustrated Skywalker after his crash-landing on the jungle planet Dagobah during his search for Jedi master Yoda.
“I don’t even know what I’m doing here,” says Ross, imitating Luke exactly, before adding: “In Alnwick. Where they don’t pronounce the letters l or w.”
For Star Wars fans, this show was more fun than bulls-eying wamp-rats in your T-16 back home.