Adelaide Fringe 2018
Join acclaimed British writer-performer & newly crowned BBC Poetry Slam Champion Ben Norris as he battles the UK’s most notorious service stations & the perils of lower league football in search of the man behind his stoic father. In turns “hilarious and poignant” (Theatre Full Stop), The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family is a “modern pilgrimage” (The Stage); a poetic, multimedia, ramshackle road trip from a “prodigious talent” (Reviews Hub) that attempts to bridge the often impassable gap we feel from those we love, asking important questions of identity & contemporary masculinity & Travelodge – along the way.
Ben Norris is searching for his father. Not because he never met him – but because he wanted to know the man behind the facade. What made him who he was. His real identity. Embarking on a road trip to Wembley (but not the one you think) Norris is going to hitchhike across the M1, stopping at the towns that played a key role in his father’s life. Documenting the journey with photos, videos and a journal, this is the story of the people, the places and the service stations he encountered.
Entering the theatre, you see Norris on stage, colouring in his M1 sign. There are a number of small lights (well utilized through the show) and a backpack. Once the audience is suitably seated, the show begins.
We start by being introduced to his family, with a projection screen showing us family photographs. This screen is a key part of the show, as we are able to see a complete map of the journey. Not being completely familiar with a lot of the towns and cities on the route, I didn’t feel disadvantaged in any way, as the images were more than enough to give a reference point. As we travel along with Ben, we’re formally introduced to the people that are key players in his father’s life, as well as the locations they reside in. At the same time, we get to meet his knights in shining car panels, who help Norris between towns and service stations. With family antidotes along the way, as well as some side bars about the relationship between Norris and his father, we are made to feel like travelers and companions of Norris, not just spectators.
There was a noticeable polish to this show, that was evident from the beginning. The images and videos were key, without being overused. Every prop served its purpose and was located within seconds in a vast and bulging backpack full of stuff. The audience participation was gentle and genuine (and rewarding, if you like chocolate). Every second and moment was well timed and delivered with intent.
Although Norris has performed this show for a few years, the show gave no evidence of being stale or laboured, rather it seemed as fresh as the first time it was performed. Give that is the poets first solo show, he is clearly a gifted story teller and performer. However, much like a number of shows within this style, there seemed a bit of unbalance between the first half hour and last half hour. During the first part, we seemed to flow calmly through locations and stories, whereas the last half seemed like a sprint. We were suddenly darting between towns and cars and people and missed a lot of the detail apparent in the first part.
Thankfully, the speed of the last few miles of this ride didn’t spoil the overall effect. The passengers were left feeling uplifted and happy that they got to travel along with Norris and we hope this won’t be his last trip.