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theatre preview


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— Production photo

by Charles Ross
Plus Articulate by Cayman Duncan
September 28 - October 9
Performance Works, Granville Island
604-257-0366 or

(This is Jerry’s review of a Vancouver performance in 2004).

Charles Ross's One Man Lord of the Rings is a remarkable piece of theatre. Ross is alone on stage in a black tee shirt and pants, with only elbow and knee pads to aid his exhausting physical performance--no costume pieces, no props. Using his body and his voice--changes of accent and cadence, a range of vocal sound effects--he performs the entire, epic three-part book/movie by himself in an hour. It's true that you really need to know Tolkien's story to get the full effect. But even if you miss a few details you'll be slack-jawed at the skill, audacity, energy and imagination of this actor.

Some of the characters he really nails: Gandalf, Gollum, the voice of Frodo, the Orcs. His elf-princess becomes a lovely running gag. The precision of the work is especially admirable--the flick of a tongue to catch a tear when Sam weeps for Frodo. Every so often Ross throws us a curve, dropping Edwin Starr and Johnny Cash into the mix, gently taking the piss out of some aspects of the film: "Are we gay, Mr. Frodo?" Sam finally dares to ask at the end. But mostly he plays it straight, letting the comedy emerge as laughter of recognition and awe at his amazing shorthand evocation of character and incident, at his immensely clever compression of events, at his slick transitions.

By the end of the show, completely soaked in sweat, Ross actually seems to have grown physically larger, dominating the stage. His is a truly epic performance.

Jerry Wasserman


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