The One Man Star Wars Trilogy- Cardiff: 28th September

As a child I still fondly recall afternoons spent at my paternal Grandparent's home watching Star Wars: A New Hope on VHS.  I was captivated by the combination of fun dialog, mystery, excitement, "magic" (The Force), space ships, the cool Han Solo, the mysterious Ben Kenobi and the terrifying Lord Darth Vader.  It was a film that dominated my childhood - along with the David Jason animated version of The Wind in the WillowsThe Neverending Story and The Shawshank Redemption it remains one of the most watched movies of my life.  I watched that VHS copy until the tape wore out in multiple sections and I can still recite many lines from memory with great accuracy.

Flash forward to 2005 and I'm walking out of the cinema after watching Revenge of the Sith, the prequel trilogy for me wasn't a total deal breaker at the time - there was a lot in them I found pretty boring and from faintly ridiculous to absurd - but it was clear that they were far from the level of quality that the first three were created to.  However, in hindsight I know that it was the prequel trilogy that made me fall out of love with Star Wars and science fiction in general.  I can still vividly recall the moment where it happened, where even the original trilogy broke... forever?

A day or so after watching Revenge of the Sith my friends gathered together and we started to watch A New Hope again.  Things went fine until Vader's first appearance, at which point everything came crashing down for me, the connection between the snot-rag whiny Anakin Skywalker from the second and third prequel movie (ignoring the annoying little boy from the first one for the moment) and this menace from my childhood came together.  That final cliched scene where Anakin stumbles from the table as Vader and yells 'NOOOooooo!' was the straw that broke the camel's back.  As such, when Vader made his menacing appearance on Leia's ship in A New Hope; a moment that used to terrify me as a child, I was forced to permanently make the connection between Anakin and Vader.  No longer was this figure a terrifying menace, the magic had been broken - I could see the strings (I figured out the magic trick, if you like).  I stood up from my chair, fell to my knees and yelled 'NOOoooooo!' in my very best James Earl Jones impression then walked out of the room and never watched any Star Wars movie again.

Recently my better half; Datura, discovered that The One Man Star Wars Trilogy was playing in Cardiff, Wales.  In exchange for booking tickets to see Dave Gorman's Powerpoint Presentation I agreed to go and see it.  Needless to say, thanks to the history I briefed you on up there I wasn't that excited about going. (It's also needless to say that due to Datura being my wife I wasn't going to complain... much).

We arrived at the show and outside there were already one of my greatest pet peeves, cos-players.  They were dressed mostly as clone troopers, which felt extra ridiculous - because this was for the original trilogy there were no clone troopers in those movies (and about 99% less shit overall).  My observations about the ridiculous nature of the fan(atic) however did not go down well, we narrowly avoided a huge argument that would have spoiled the entire evening.  My bad.

The opening act, John Cooper as Danny Pensive, was a lot more subversive than you'd initially think.  Danny Pensive is Cooper's alter ego - a semi simple, duffle coat wearing man with a goatee and a bad hair cut.  His main traits are writing things down, making observations about them and then talking about it in an abrupt fashion.  It's an act that took us both a little while to gel with his delivery, where the punchline often comes about a line or so sooner than you'd expect - but once you click it works and it works well (check some out here).  "Danny" had to deal with the issue that the Cardiff audience tends to be unresponsive to any participation type comedy, but he did very well and had the audience well warmed up by the end of it.  It was an odd, but welcome act.

After Danny had shuffled his way off the stage it was time for the main act, all three movies back to back in the space of an hour courtesy of Chris Ross.  It was an experience I wasn't completely prepared for, I'd not done any reading or preparation for the show and I was caught completely off guard by Chris's delivery.  The most notable surprise for me was the fact that he does not only all the characters but he also performs the music.  With exceptional talent and accuracy I might add.

Chris manages to fit each film into about a 15 minute performance, it's a high energy show with lots of laughs containing the very best parts of each film.  Some scenes pass by with barely a mention while others are covered in detail.  But most of all, the spirit of what makes each film great, all the classic and fun moments, are present in spades.  Chris embraces the films with a professionalism and enthusiasm that showcases a great deal of love, pride and polish.  This is a man who has come to love what he's doing and had many years to perfect it.

Sections of note include his performance as an AT-AT falling on Hoth, superb impressions of Luke, Obi-Wan, Admiral Akbar and most of all, a star turn as Yoda.  He really gets to the heart of each character and highlights the things that make them great, while also lampooning their flaws.  The prequel trilogy's are touched on in moments as well, especially the way in which they've impacted on the first three movies and diluted some of the more potent scenes.  It's impossible to look at the original trilogy in isolation any more (shame), but Chris remained entertaining in his performance even when touching on the prequels.

I have to write that Chris was a pro throughout this performance, he had two major problems (apart from Cardiff's lack of audience participation) and both of them were dealt with in a way that did not detract from the experience at all.  The first was a series of technical issues, it started with the stage crew missing Chris's cues, repeatedly, Chris was professional enough not to make a deal of it and re-cue them, but once I'd noticed this was happening it was hard to ignore.  This is, of course, not Chris's fault, rather it's the fault of the staff at Cardiff's St David's Hall - and I hope they apologised to him afterwards.  Technical issues did not end there as Chris's mic started giving up the ghost towards the climax of Return of the Jedi, cutting out during his more vigorous scenes and requiring adjustment.  Chris was obviously frustrated with this, but he should feel reassured that it did not detract from the experience one iota.

The second issue occurred with young lad in the front row, he held up his phone to snap a couple of pictures and Chris spotted him doing it.  Fortunately for the boy Chris thought he was texting, something that he took up making fun of, mentioning that 'lad in the front row texting' by bringing it into the act several times.  However, part way through the show, when doing a quick bit of Q&A he discovered that the boy wasn't texting, he had in fact taken pictures.  Sure enough, at the end of the show Chris stopped to talk to the lad and ask him to delete the pictures.  The boy just did not get the seriousness of the request and sat there in mute refusal, I assume at first he thought it was a joke, then he became embarrassed.  Not even an offer of an autograph and official pictures was enough to get the boy to come up on stage and delete them, instead he was escorted to one side by an usher (at which point I think the reality of the situation hit him).  Chris smoothed this over by chatting with the audience as it happened, distracting people from the awkward scene occurring to one side.  In short, he dealt with an problem in the best fashion he could, as a professional.  (I have no idea if the lad got his picture and autograph afterwards, but I was sat a row behind and to the right of him and I think I saw him just get up and hurriedly leave at the end of the show.  So I guess not).

So, can I recommend the One Man Star Wars Trilogy?

I think I can sum it up as such, despite my opening story about how Star Wars lost it's magic, at the end of Chris Ross's show I wanted to watch the original trilogy again.  And I think that's all you need to know about how good it was, he restored my faith in the films and showed me that you could enjoy them despite what came afterwards.

See more about The One Man Star Wars Trilogy at it's site here.


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