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TRCH The Da Vinci Code

Dr Who Live

28 October 10 words: John Anderson
The fact that the Doctor drew a crowd in Nottingham last night, bringing Gallifrey a bit nearer to Gedling, deserves some applause
Dr Who Live at the Nottingham Ice Arena
Dr Who Live at the Nottingham Ice Arena

Dr Who Live promised to take all the fun of the classic British TV show on tour. To a certain extent, it succeeded.

“The Monsters are Coming!” screamed the poster. Although it wasn’t just about the famous Daleks and Cybermen. In two 45 minute parts, the Trent FM Arena audience enjoyed an ambitious show featuring pyrotechnics, lasers, and more than a little panto slapstick. A live band - the term orchestra is perhaps over-selling it slightly - knocked out incidental music from the recent series and monsters “mixed and mingled” with the crowd.  Well, mainly with those sitting in the stalls. It was all chaired by Vorgenson, an intergalactic circus showman, played by Nigel Planer. His character is - as any real Whovian will tell you – the son of a shady bloke who toured the galaxy with his “Carnival of Monsters”, a story from the classic TV series back in 1973. Planer carried out his duties as ringmaster with plenty of showmanship and not a little menace. He also worked hard to build a rapport with his audience, which wasn’t always easy, perhaps due to the sheer size of the venue.

Planer’s casting has raised a few eyebrows – he’s clearly an accomplished performer and works hard to add gusto to proceedings. He also played Neil in The Young Ones and you don’t get much better than that. However, given the TV show’s 47 year history, there has been criticism that producer’s chose to create a new Who character, rather than hire someone familiar to the Who audience. There’s got to be a valid reason. Perhaps Adric’s agent was busy?

Nigel Planer as Vorgenson
Nigel Planer as Vorgenson

Murray Gold’s music, skilfully conducted by Ben Foster, delivered poignancy, excitement and beauty in equal measure. It was great, but maybe not quite as great as the recent BBC Dr Who Prom’s with its altogether bigger orchestra, full choir, and counter-tenor. The Proms also played a trick on their audience by running a pre-recorded video of the Doctor (Matt Smith), only to have him appear in the flesh seconds later.

This doesn’t happen during Dr Who Live and maybe that’s the major disappointment. Instead, specially-recorded videos of the Doctor and other clips from the TV show play on a giant TV screen. It works to an extent, due in no small part to Matt Smith’s energetic performance. However, knowing that this was all taped took something away from the live theatre experience, and other show clips sometimes felt like fillers, slowing down the pace.

There were some nice theatrical touches, such as when the house lights came up and seemingly real police officers came in to investigate sinister goings on… only to meet a very grizzly end. Indeed, it was a relief not to be an eight-year-old during that bit. Had there been a sofa handy, this reviewer would have been hiding behind it.

Dr Who Live has been criticised for being too pricey and not delivering enough thrills or big names. Ultimately though, this spectacle is for the kids who, based on last night’s Nottingham show seemed to be enjoying themselves. Really, it feels like sacrilege to say critical things of Dr Who. Only a few years ago it was inconceivable to think the show would ever return to our TV screens. The fact that the Doctor drew a crowd in Nottingham last night, bringing Gallifrey a bit nearer to Gedling, deserves some applause.

Dr Who Live website


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