Edinburgh Fringe 2019
Douglas Adams’ fans will delight in the insight into the literary genius’ mind, witnessing his struggles against a publishing deadline.
Douglas Adams, coveted and bestselling author, is perilously close to an apparently unmissable publishing deadline. So much so, that his publicist has locked him in a hotel suite and refuses to release him until he finishes the manuscript.
Douglas Adams will need no introduction to many people, his reputation as one of the greatest and adored writers of the twentieth century being beyond debate. At the moment we meet Adams in his hotel suite, his Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy trilogy has been a huge international success, yielding a TV series, albums and merchandising. And yet – with the deadline for the next book in the series pressing – he is suffering from the dreaded archetypal writer’s block. His response : to prevaricate and procrastinate, mostly by taking baths. But the pressure is relentless. His publicist is effectively holding him prisoner. If he fails to produce the book, he will be ruined, financially, professionally and reputationally. In the midst of this crisis, Adams conjures the essence of his bath-time rubber duck (fans will appreciate the reference), whose physical form seems to represent Adams’ creative alter-ego.
By interacting with this figure, Adams finally channels his thoughts and creates the storyline for the fourth book, somewhat departing conceptually from its predecessors. Although missing the deadline – we witness it whooshing by – history recounts that he succeeds in delivering the book.
The staging of We Apologise For The Inconvenience is Fringe friendly, being one chair and a towel (a further in-joke). The Director, Ross Kelly, manages to keep the plot moving, despite the claustrophobic setting, and does well to believably create the relationship between man and imaginary duck.
Adam Gardiner is excellent throughout and convincingly plays Adams with aplomb. The duck, played by Rob Stuart-Hudson, is necessarily larger than life, though whether all of his antics add to the piece holistically is perhaps debatable. Stuart-Hudson, however, is always interesting to watch and his comic timing is immaculate. The relationship between Adams and part of his mind is compelling and the juxtaposition between Adams’s palpable frustration, yet needing the duck’s input, is neatly explored and at times joyous.
Adams’ insecurities are nakedly displayed : is his work worthy of comparison with – or even worse derivative of – former admired trail-blazers such as John Cleese or PG Wodehouse ? Is his work simply a re-mix of previous ideas ? Dare he kill off much-loved characters, knowing they would be mourned by fans and alienating a section of them ?
Room 5064 stage this piece with gusto and precision and it is quite hard to fault the direction or the performances. The layer that is missing lies in the writing : it is a shame that we did not see the perspective of the unseen publicist, who occasionally bangs on the door. This layer and the conflict emanating may have made for a more dynamic piece of theatre and there is a slight sense of anti-climax.
Overall, Room 5064 should be proud of this piece and any Douglas Adams’ fans will derive much pleasure from its staging.