The Lord of the Rings (known as LOTR to the mega-fans) is one of my favourite books. So, imagine my delight upon discovering that there is a one-man re-enactment of Frodo’s journey to Mordor on at The Burrow. The venue couldn’t be more like a hobbit-hole if it tried, so naturally, I had to be there. What could possibly go wrong? Well quite a lot, apparently - but then, it is supposed to.
Laud Of The Rings is the quintessential Fringe show: funny, a little bit weird, and slightly unsettling.
In Laud Of The Rings, Josh Gardner, complete with fake hobbit feet and curly black wig, retells the story of his journey from Oxford to Istanbul in order to “save Europe”, interspersed by film clips of the actual trip he took. He hesitates, digresses, asks for prompts from the ops box, and even hands a script to an audience member with a “look, I’ve only done this twice”. He obsesses about how much time he has left and seems in constant need of reassurance from the audience that the show is interesting. “Do you like the book?” he asks us followed with, “the rest of you, I don’t know why you’ve come”.
This is wonderfully scrappy, anarchic story-telling at its most post-modern. Gardner’s delivery is so dry and underplayed you almost think he means it. He repeatedly, and hilariously, points out "clever" references to LOTR in his film clips and deliberately allows himself to be upstaged by props. At one point, he takes a seat in the auditorium and tells us a poignant story of how he stalled on his European journey, had to ask his dad to rescue him, and almost had a breakdown. Meanwhile, two audience members stand on stage dressed in strange costumes and wearing ridiculous-looking children’s orange life jackets, whilst inflating a giant plastic sphere with a noisy air compressor. Josh then rebukes the audience for not taking him seriously. There are some great moments of comedy here.
At times, though, Gardner runs the risk of over-using the ‘disorganised performance’ joke, especially at the conclusion of the piece. The show would perhaps be even better if it were a little more controlled here. There is ‘chaos’ and then there is chaos. Thus, the audience were denied the opportunity to properly applaud, which was a shame, and some audience members left somewhat non-plussed.
Laud Of The Rings is the quintessential Fringe show: funny, a little bit weird and slightly unsettling. It takes a lot to make me laugh out loud, but Gardner is a man with a gift for deadpan humour. He could probably make a knitting pattern sound funny.