The ramshackle decadence of the Vault Festival, which sprawls like an abandoned Punchdrunk set through the tunnels under Waterloo, seems the ideal venue for a wild ride into bat country. Lou Stein revives his smash 1981 adaptation of Hunter S Thompson’s classic account of his druggy freakout while on assignment in Sin City, and if it’s a tamer beast than you might expect, it’s still gloriously whacked out – a game of chemical chicken with the heart of the American Dream.
Ed Hughes’s birdlike Raoul Duke is an avatar for Thompson himself, acting as an agitated zookeeper for Rob Crouch’s terrifying Dr Gonzo. A sort of mescaline-fuelled, sexually depraved grizzly bear, his embodiment of the twisted side of a long, brutal drug trip keeps ‘Fear and Loathing…’ pulsing through its demanding two-hour running time.
New artwork from Ralph Steadman – illustrator of the novel – brings the projected backdrop to jittering life, but somehow the psychedelia never takes hold. The music’s too quiet while the theatrical techniques are too old and safe. The presence of John Chancer’s Narrator, played as more of a stately American patriarch than an irascible older Thompson, keeps proceedings on the rails. And where’s the fun in that?
If you’re a fan of the book or Terry Gilliam’s superior film version, you’ll have a great time nodding along with Stein’s reverent adaptation. If you’re neither, you might get more out of it by following the example of the gents in the front row who appeared to be off their faces on LSD.
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Average User Rating
4 / 5
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Great atmosphere, engaging show and a true tribute to Hunter S. He would approve. Loved the tacos too.Buy the ticket, take the ride.
my first thought upon sitting down on the front row as the lights when down was - oh god - they're going to make a mess of it. tiny budget, this is gonna be am dram at its worst..... yet within seconds i was immediately drawn in, inspired and didn't want it to ever end! brilliant performances from every single character, the extra's actually made the play! they were hillarious! a bigger budget for stage props would have killed it, the tiny cast and minimal stage props really brought it to life! loved every second of it, one of the best small plays i've seen in london!
I agree with the other negative reviews here. The play is unimaginatively staged and - with the notable exception of the guy playing Gonzo, who was a great stage presence, really chewing up the scenery - woodenly acted. I found the whole experience so dull, I was literally nodding off by the second half, and the only thing stopping me doing so was being seated on a narrow bench with no back. At £25 a pop, the tickets for this amateurish show are disgracefully overpriced. A real flop.
Miserable, uncomfortable venue. Shouldn't have come back after intermission. I recommend any of the other venues in The Vault as a better way to spend a Saturday night.
Thanks Timeout. Very useful review indeed. We took your advice, and dropped some acid before the show. The bats were terrifying
There was audible disappointment at the announcement before the show started that the projector was malfunctioning but as the action started I don't think anyone missed it. The cast were full of energy and with the bright colours of the scenery and costumes the stage seemed full as we were taken on a hilarious drug fuelled journey. Sometimes it can be hard not to make comparisons to the film version of a play but I rarely had that problem with this show. The projections were working for the second half of the show and they do help to create an atmosphere but really the show is strong enough to work without them. The venue is very cool so don't be surprised if the audience is populated by hipsters but if you find wooden benches uncomfortable take a cushion!
Rob Crouch was great in this, definitely echoes of his Olly Reed in Dr Gonzo; a real stage presence. I had to leave at the interval though as was so uncomfortable on the benches with almost no leg room, and thought the unallocated seating was a bit of a mess - I was near the end and people were constantly told to bunch closer together to make room for late comers. Still, it was a preview so hopefully things have improved.