This isn’t the gentle comedy romp through the Lord of the Rings that many may believe from the title. Presented by the Brighton based charity, Mankind, Waiting for Gandalf is a powerful performance about the burdens that some of us carry.
Waiting for Gandalf is one of those performances that lingers in your mind once you leave the room
We meet Kevin Brook, played by Chris Neville-Smith, as he crashes through the audience to set up his chair to be first in line for a book signing. Gandalf himself is coming to Brighton to sign copies of the new Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Movie Companion. He tells us he is a fanatic and is more than happy to wait all night to meet his idol.
Brook looks like the kind of guy you walk past every day and never turn your head. He is wearing a slightly ill-fitting shirt and suit jacket with jeans and trainers. He has thrown a waterproof jacket over himself and has a backpack fully loaded for his adventure. He is filled with an awkward enthusiasm as he rushes out his thoughts about the films and his experiences. His mind slows and relaxes as he sips at his beer and more details from his life begin to slip into conversation.
It is here that where the performance begins to shine. The minimalist set design of a solitary chair and cut-out of Gandalf forces the audience to never break contact with Brook and catch all the nuances he brings to the performance. It slowly dawns that this isn’t a happy-go-lucky Tolkien nerd. His family are distant and uncaring, and he struggles to form meaningful relationships with those around him. The sips of beer turn into mouthfuls and whispers become shouts.
Praise must be given to Writer Adrian Marks for using fantasy and fandom as a tool for exploring a character. It could have been very clumsy but instead is handled with grace. Kevin Brook feels like he is Samwise Gamgee with his foot at the edge of the shire and crestfallen Faramir being scorned by his father. All because it is sometimes a bit too much or never enough to just be Kevin Brook.
Waiting for Gandalf is one of those performances that lingers in your mind once you leave the room. It is a one man, one act play designed to raise awareness and does so wonderfully.