"I'm sick of skinny white boys in jackets regurgitating the sounds of the 70s and 80s. Not content with revamping AC-DC and Led Zep, Joy Division and Gang of Four we've gone so far as to mine the back catalogues of Supertramp, 10cc and ELO. "
Lean in close. I'm only going to whisper this once. Who wants to face the wrath of coke frenzied record label execs or those bad boys from Incendiary Towers, when they hear of a heresy worthy of the Cathars?
Sometimes there are things more important than music! There it is; I've said it. Recently the World Cup (including a week in Germany) distracted me so much that I can't honestly remember playing a CD, let alone going to a gig, for most of June. I recently had the feeling again – I guess it is becoming more and more prominent in my leisure hours. Part of the problem is surely I'm sick of skinny white boys in jackets regurgitating the sounds of the 70s and 80s. Not content with revamping AC-DC and Led Zep, Joy Division and Gang of Four we've gone so far as to mine the back catalogues of Supertramp, 10cc and ELO. Last summer we were looking towards a new era of British music and all that this would have promised. Now we have The Automatic, the Feeling and friends cluttering up the charts. Good Lord, when will it all end?
So when the chance came along to go to a one-off performance attended by only 600 specially invited guests, music went out of the window to be replaced by an actor who plays Darth Vader and Maul, Princess Amedala, Anakin Skywalker and Jar Jar Binks all in one evening.
Star Wars – Shortened! A whole six film saga condensed into 20 minutes. That's a 98% reduction with 3 actors playing the key characters in the vast Star Wars universe. There's some who would say that George Lucas' films would benefit from some serious editing, but this is ridiculous. Ideal for the time poor, sci-fi rich generation we undoubtedly are. Can you witness my excitement – the answer probably depends on when you were born. Anyone who can remember going to see any of the original trilogy at a cinema on their release will no doubt have memories of sloping words disappearing into the top of the screen, the rousing score and big ass spaceships of the type never seen on our screens before (okay, maybe 2001 a Space Odyssey did it first but most kids wouldn't have seen that at the time.)
The whole "Shortened" thing was commissioned by Sky Movies ahead of a Star Wars spectacular which saw all six films played in order for the first time on British TV (guess we must give Rupert Murdoch credit for something.) It was a PR stunt of course, but goodness what a concept. The person who dreamt this up in a corporate brain-storm must still be handing out cigars.
The Reduced Shakespeare Company is already famous for the comparatively minor task of condensing the Bible, the complete works of the Bard and the history of America into bite sized chunks, but all that fades into insignificance when faced with the Star Wars saga.
Obviously on arrival I was expecting to enter the Bar Cantina complete with mutants, droids and customers and barmen who wouldn't like me. Or at least the Tattooine palace of Jabba the Hut complete with a blue elephant tinkling the ivories and girls cavorting in gold bikinis. Instead we got free drinks, snacks and men (they could have been women – but I'd be pretty confident they were all men) dressed as storm troopers and Lord Vader himself. The Criterion Theatre is right next to Eros in Piccadilly Circus and what a lovely old fashioned theatre it is too, complete with gilt, murals of cherubs, classical statues and that type of thing – impressive in its own way but an unlikely setting for anything to do with light sabres and X-wing fighters.
Still, a free glass of wine and through we went to our seats in the stalls. Of course Darth got to sit in a box to watch the show with two storm troopers as his Praetorian Guard. Good job too - don't think I'd want to sit next to him at the theatre – all that noisy breathing, latent violence and the constant threat of mind tricks. He'd have your cards out of your wallet, your PIN numbers out of your head and you'd be contributing towards a new Death Star before you could say "this is a dark time for the rebellion."
So how was it? In a nutshell, it was breathtakingly funny. The proceedings were introduced by comic actor Ralf Little, who looked a little over awed, and who told us in breathless tones that original Star Wars actors were in the house including Kenny Baker and Jeremy Bullock, who played R2D2 and Boba Fett respectively.
Then we had lift-off. It was all there – so many in-jokes that I now can't remember, mickey taking of nerds thinking these are more than just movies, Jabba the Hut portrayed by a big painted pop-up tent, jokes about Yoda's syntax cracked were and a pedal bin painted to look like R2 himself.
It was only 20 minutes but so much to take in. Adam Long, RSC's top man retold Attack of the Clones in the form of a bluesy song sung with acoustic guitar (along the lines of Anakin Skywalker having some sort of teenage hormone imbalance.) Self-winding white boards were used to replicate the famous starting screens in a very lo-fi fashion, puppets aplenty, fake arms, an AT-AT portrayed by a man in a hand-made helmet bending over and walking with the aid of sink plungers. You get the picture. There was even a very contrived joke about John the Baptist and Jabba the Hut sharing the same middle name. All topped of course with a liberal helping of "may the force be with us."
So there it was - a breath taking whizz through six films which took George Lucas decades to realise, a heartfelt standing ovation and then out in the night. A veritable geek fest. What more could a child of the 70s ask for? Three actors, a number of props of varying degrees of silliness, an obvious love of the movies and away we go. They didn't include the best Star Wars gag ever: Darth Vader knows what you are getting for Christmas...he can feel your presents...but that's a minor quibble.
Of course I duly went home and watched the Empire Strikes Back (again!) and logged onto Ebay just to see what useless plastic Star Wars tat I could squander my hard earned money on. The next day I took the BBC Star Wars quiz and got 14 out of 14.
Of course I appreciate the irony – I rail against musicians hell-bent on 70s nostalgia and then go and indulge in the whole thing for music's cinematic cousin. But Star Wars is different...all together now...drum roll...a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...
Dum Dum Dum, Dum De Dum, Dum De Dum,
What happens if you do it the long way round:
May the force be with you...
Also in the news: Lordi cola – what a concept! Please tell it is specially made by dwarves in Nifelheim, based on a recipe developed by Odin himself. I want Loki to interrupt an important saga to tell me that the can has those wings on the side which rise as you finish your drink. Surely it must be the best mixer ever developed for mead...
And finally my favourite story of recent times. A guard dog employed to protect the Wookey Bear Collection on show at Wookey Hole Caves in Somerset (and no I'm not making it up) decided that he should chew the collection instead, including one rare bear owned by the one and only Elvis Presley. Made in 1909, the £40,000 bear, called Mabel had once found itself amongst the King's possessions. Cue lots of terrible tabloid puns in the papers, the pick of which was "I Just Want to Eat Your Teddy Bear!"
Words: John Cottrill.