Space and time are relative, and on January 8, 2016, Hedgerow Theatre Company will set out to prove this point with Douglas Adams’ beloved sci-fi comedy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. With director Jared Reed at the helm of this production and the cast of the Hedgerow Theatre Company at his disposal, the Hedgerow stage will stretch to the ends of existence and back again with the help of artist Phoebe Titus.
“The great thing about this project is that there are such wonderful characters and descriptions of visual gags in it,” Titus said. “Working from the radio script is especially fun because it’s a blank slate and visuals can be reimagined from the ground up.”
Originally a radio comedy broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1978, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has since been adapted to other formats, including six novels, a film, and a television series. With numerous additions and re-writes over the years, it gradually became an international multimedia phenomenon. Hedgerow will bring Adams’ original radio play to the historic grist-mill stage, and use Titus’ artwork in storyboard fashion to prove that scale is everything.
“When it comes to creating visuals to go along with Adams’ world, there’s also an aspect of the specific time and place they’re coming from,” Titus explained. “I’ve been working to pull them all together in a way that is fun, relatable, and relevant. Visuals give context for stories. They bring color and inflection to the stories. Stories have to be told, and that takes time. Pictures help fix that time into one, clear thought. In this project, the goal is to have the pictures highlight, punctuate, and augment the narrative.”
The title of the show is the name of a fictional, eccentric, electronic hitchhiking guidebook to the Milky Way galaxy, originally published by Megadodo Publications, one of the great publishing houses of Ursa Minor Beta. The narrative of the stage play is frequently punctuated with excerpts from The Guide commenting on life, existence, and the frailty of human knowledge.
Throughout all versions, the series follows the adventures of Arthur Dent, a hapless Englishman. The story also follows the adventures of other major characters: Ford Prefect (who named himself after the Ford Prefect car to blend in with what was assumed to be the dominant life form, automobiles), an alien from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse and a researcher for the eponymous guidebook; Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ford’s semi-cousin, notorious awful dresser and the Galactic President; the depressed robot Marvin the Paranoid Android; and Trillian, formerly known as Tricia McMillan, a woman Arthur once met at a party in Islington and the only other human survivor of Earth’s destruction.
“One great thing about science fiction worlds is that they can hold a mirror to the good and bad things about our world,” Titus related. “The great thing about Douglas Adams’ world is that it holds a mirror to the humorously mundane, contradictory, and marginally annoying aspects of our world. I read the script several times, talked with my husband, David Titus (the technical director,) and we just had fun together thinking about the characters and visuals.The fabulous thing about coming to this project is that it’s funny; it’s fun to talk about, and fun to think about.”
The first radio series comes from a proposal called “The Ends of the Earth”: six self-contained episodes or “fits”, all destroying the Earth in a different way. While writing the first episode, Adams realized that he needed an alien to provide some context, and that this alien needed a reason to be there. Adams decided to make the alien a researcher for a “wholly remarkable book” named The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. As Adams writing progressed, the Guide became the center of his story, and thus the series was born, with the destruction of Earth being the only holdover.
“Adams also makes excellent use of logical fallacies; bringing them to their most ludicrous conclusions with insightful little gags.” Titus commented. “It’s really funny to think about a tiresome, depressed robot, a bureaucratic, green alien, and just a regular guy whose house, then entire world, gets destroyed on a one particularly annoying day.”
Get ready for the Universe to be at your fingertips, as a comedic journey through time and space will land in Rose Valley in time for the near year; but be warned, this production ends as quickly as Dent’s time on Earth as it closes on January 17.