The annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival has grown to become the largest arts festival in the world, and for many theatre fans, is the theatrical event of the year. It celebrates the world of performing arts in its many shapes and forms, encompassing comedy, music and dance, and of course, theatre, which is represented through musicals, plays, one-man shows and so forth. It’s easy to underestimate the appeal of solo performance, when so many theatre fans are used to big budget West End shows which attack your senses from all sides. There’s no ensemble, no expensive sets and special effects in one-man shows, it’s just a singular performer standing alone on a stage trying to entertain an audience with nothing more than their own imagination and creativity. Sometimes though, that’s all you need.
There were plenty of one-man shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, including a returning Charles Ross. Ross, for those who may not know, is the man behind the highly successful One Man Star Wars and One Man Lord of the Rings. He wrote both shows and performs them himself without the use of costumes, set, special effects, props or supporting cast. These critically acclaimed shows have been seen, and loved, all over the world, and as the Ed Fringe approaches the end for another year, Ross is preparing to take his creations on tour around the UK.
Charles Ross is a Canadian actor hailing from Victoria who is predominantly known for these two shows, which have been officially endorsed by the owners of the franchises.
One Man Star Wars was the first show he created. It made its world début in Toronto, Ontario back in 2001 and has toured extensively since then, with over 1,200 performances in more than 230 cities across four continents. It eventually came to the attention of Lucasfilm who contacted him, not to block him from performing the show, but to invite him to perform it at the 2005 movie-release convention for Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. One Man Star Wars is based on the original Star Wars trilogy and is a one-hour long ‘high energy, non-stop blast’ through A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, with Ross taking on all the beloved characters using his talent for impressions. He does all the characters’ voices and also manages to nail R2-D2’s whistles and Darth Vader’s wheeze, as well as various other sound effects and even the iconic music. The idea for the show was inspired by his life-long love for the films, which he watched hundreds of times as a child as the farm where he grew up didn’t receive any television reception.
He followed the success of One Man Star Wars with another trilogy he loved: The Lord of the Rings. He’d read Tolkien’s books multiple times and was a huge fan of Peter Jackson’s three-film adaption, so it was perhaps a natural leap for him to adapt the classic tale into another one-man show. Condensing LotR into a one-hour show would be a epic challenge for anyone – the West End musical struggled with a three-hour running time. Ross manages it though, relying again on his impressionist skills and seemingly limitless energy to bring the characters to life and recreate the battles as he takes the audience on a journey through the Middle Earth of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and Return of the King. He was blocked from performing the show for a while because of legal issues surrounding the rights, due to The Lord of the Rings musical, but he was eventually granted official permission and he has since continued to tour the show – very successfully too.
Ross likened the two shows to one another as, not only two of the most successful franchises in movie history, but also both being stories about ‘the little guy rising up to a potential he never knew he had.’ They’re really ones for the fans though. For someone who has never seen Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, the shows will most likely be baffling and completely nonsensical.
The tour begins in High Wycombe at the Wycombe Swan on 26th September 2014. Most of the performances are of Ross’ One Man Lord of the Rings, which he takes to venues in Guildford, Newcastle, Leicester, Norwich, Reading, Cambridge and Bromley, as well as a stop-off in the West End’s Leicester Square Theatre. One Man Star Wars plays just a few dates, visiting the Mumford Theatre at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, the Whitley Bay Playhouse and the Leicester Square Theatre. The tour ends at The Radlett Centre, Radlett on 17th October 2014 with One Man Lord of the Rings.
Both shows are directed by TJ Dawe and feature lighting design by Mike Schaldmose. The UK tour is presented by Nick Brooke Limited.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Thursday 21st August 2014