Waiting for Gandalf

Being bustled and barged out of the way on entering the theatre was a novel experience as a bucket hat, backpack and zip up hoody darted past the queue to desperately claim his space at the front. He turned out to be our chatty companion for the evening, Kevin Brooks. 

this is a nuanced, sympathetic performance of a lost soul that really tugs at the heart strings

Kevin is just like us, a die hard fan of The Lord of the Rings and we are all in the queue for Gandalf - in the form of Ian McKellen - to sign the latest film companion guide. Whilst waiting, Kevin likes to tell us things. He clearly doesn't usually find other people easy, but is keen to connect with us over our shared love of all things Tolkien. He asks us how long we have been fans: he got hooked at school on the books as 'reading a good book takes your mind off the unpleasant things in life'. References to Middle Earth raise some laughs as he drinks his beer cans from his Boy Scout rucksack, but soon more sombre anecdotes begin to drift into the conversation. Tales of his bullying 'not friend' at work and the doomed love affair with his Arwen, a lady actually called Jo.

Played by Chris Neville-Smith, Kevin is a superb portrayal of 'that guy'. The social misfit, the anxious inoffensive one that no one can really be bothered to get to know. The victim. Since The Big Bang Theory, it’s been fashionable to play the awkward geek and it can sometimes fall far into the blunt mockery of stereotype. However, this is a nuanced, sympathetic performance of a lost soul that really tugs at the heart strings. The play, written by Adrian Marks, has a rather simplistic approach – that there must be something wrong with someone so obsessed by a fictional world. There is indeed something wrong with Kevin, or at least something has gone wrong for him, and as the show progresses it gradually slips out of him, as the reason he is so desperate to see Gandalf is not what you might expect. Subtly lit to suggest the dawn and with snippets of the films' soundtracks to add atmosphere, this is a bare stage and all focus is solely on Neville-Smith's engrossing monologue.

Waiting for Gandalf is not a happy show and there are not a lot of Hobbits. Be prepared for a challenging hour with a dark ending, but expect to leave feeling it was an hour well spent.

Reviews by Julia French

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The Blurb

Meet Kevin Brook, Lord of the Rings fanatic. On the eve before 'Gandalf' signs a new book, he waits and talks about his devotion. But what's the real reason for his obsession? Why must he take his mind from the realities of life? An uncomfortable truth will be revealed. “Dark-as-hell” (Fringe Guru)