18 April 2008

Review on the Run: One Man Star Wars Trilogy.

A Star Wars movie marathon in an hour and a half?!
You better believe it, kid.

Charles Ross is Luke Skywalker in: One Man Star Wars Trilogy.

Last week I had the privilege of seeing Charles Ross' One Man Star Wars Trilogy at Brisbane's Cremorne Theatre, in the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. The curtains opened, and there was Charles dressed in black, zooming around the stage. He proudly trumpeted the 20th Century Fox Fanfare and then the Star Wars Theme. What first impressed me was Ross' attention to detail. He didn't indulge in needless geek-isms (though he probably could have) like rattling off the receding prologue, rather he only used those elements most pertinent to the plot and the comedy. In this instance he used the suggestion of an opening crawl to underscore the comedy. Indeed, a great deal of the laughs were sourced from his clever gestural comedy: any Star Wars fan could tell when he was an X-Wing, a TIE Fighter, or Jabba the Hutt. His impression of a fallen Imperial Walker is absolutely priceless.

Charles Ross' delivery was spot-on. It's almost as if George Lucas was backstage the entire time, egging him on: "faster, more intense!" His Luke Skywalker was an exceptionally fast-talking, whiny farmboy, and kept the plot moving at a brisk pace. Clocking in the entire Trilogy at one and a half hours is no mean feat for one actor, and frankly I'm surprised he still had breath in him by the end. That's probably the most impressive part of the show; that one man can supply enough energy on-stage (with no props, mind you) to conjure an entire universe in the collective mind of his audience.

His sound effects were brilliantly replicated, from the screaming TIE Fighters to R2D2's bleeps and croaks. While he rarely deviated from his regular vocal timbre, his meticulous phrasing and pacing perfectly encapsulated each character. His most notable characterisations included Jabba the Hutt, Yoda, and my personal favourite, the Emperor. Ross' sketches were almost satirical, poking fun at Hamill's [and McDiarmid's] over-acting, and inconsistencies between the movies, but always with love and respect for the source material. Think of it as a playful jab in the ribs to a close friend. Surprisingly, prequel ridicule was kept to a minimum, but as Lord Vader said, it'd be all too easy to traverse that well-worn road.

Charles Ross is Master Yoda in: One Man Star Wars Trilogy.

In many ways, Charles Ross' performance highlighted the failure of Jar-Jar Binks as comedic relief. While in the Original Trilogy, comedic duties were shared by the entire cast and weaved into the story, the Prequel Trilogy attempted to project all of its comedy onto one character, and as a result, poor Jar-Jar stood out like a sore thumb in an overly serious universe. Here Charles is simply fleshing out what is already there; a comedy goldmine of science fantasy. He seemed to have the most fun with Return of the Jedi, like a child playing with his Ewok figurines. In this act he threw in more asides than usual, and really enjoyed hamming it up as Emperor Palpatine.

The most interesting thing to me was what he chose to keep and what he chose to leave out. One thing's for certain, he always chose the scenes and dialogue that were a) most important to the plot's momentum, and b) rich with comedic potential. Ross often avoided more obvious gags to highlight dynamics of the films that I hadn't even thought of (and I've seen the films many, many times). His familiarity with the films and the script was apparent to everyone in the audience - he probably could have rattled off the entire thing - right down to the musical cues, transitions and scene cuts, which he also humorously enacted.

At the conclusion of Return of the Jedi, Charles took the time to have a chat with the audience about the show's history, and how he came to tour the world doing what he loves. He really is a very endearing character in and of himself. All in all, the One Man Star Wars Trilogy gave nothing of the impression of a geek's self-indulgent dream, and everything of a seasoned actor and comedian's finely crafted stage play. If you ever wanted to watch all three movies in a row, save yourself some time and see Charles Ross. He packs all of the magic of Star Wars into one and a half hours, and plenty of laughs as well. I highly recommend this show to any Star Wars fan, or anyone with an appreciation of the films. If on the off-chance you're unfamiliar with that galaxy far, far away, rent them out then go see this show!

Charles Ross closed with the announcement that his next show will be the 'One Man Lord of the Rings Trilogy'. I for one can't wait to see it.

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