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One man, no props: A Tolkien trilogy

PUBLISHED: 08:41 18 February 2010 | UPDATED: 08:14 02 July 2010

One man, no props, but 100,000 characters.

One man, no props, but 100,000 characters.

Abigail Saltmarsh

More than 100,000 characters, a total of three masterworks and several hours of story-telling. Charles Ross has to condense it all solo into 90 minutes in his hit comedy One Man Lord of the Rings. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH reports.

More than 100,000 characters, a total of three masterworks and several hours of story-telling. Charles Ross has to condense it all solo into 90 minutes in his hit comedy One Man Lord of the Rings. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH reports.

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One Ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. And just one man to stage one of the best-known epic sagas ever.

Charles Ross is heading to Norwich with his hilarious version of Tolkien's trilogy. In just 3,600 seconds he plans to recreate the enchanting world of Middle-earth.

And armed with nothing more than a pair of elbow pads and his outrageous imagination, he will bring the 100,000 odd characters and three great masterworks to life.

“There is a frenetic style but I don't use costumes or sets,” he explained. “I make it quite clear that I am not trying to be the film.

“In fact, in a way, what makes the show unique and funny is that it does pose the question, what exactly can one man do?”

Canadian Charles started out by writing, producing and starring the infamous One Man Star Wars Trilogy.

His success with the unusual show was huge. Not only was it a surprise sell-out hit at the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe Festival - but it went to have three British tours, two West End runs, and performances at Glastonbury festival.

It even became part of the massive Star Wars Celebration Europe, staged in London to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the release of the first Star Wars film.

So how did Charles come up with his “one-man” idea? “I went to theatre school and realised that acting was such a difficult professions to make your way in, so I decided that doing a solo show would be the way forward,” he explained,

“It meant I could adhere to what I wanted to do and the show would have as much life as I wanted to breathe into it myself.”

But deciding to stage one-man versions of blockbuster films causes issues of licensing - and it took Charles a full five years to get permission to do One Man Lord of the Rings.

“I wanted to do it properly rather spending my whole time wondering if I was going to get sued,” he said. “They knew it was a light mockery of the film but they also knew I was coming at it from the best of places, and that it was a homage to the film.”

Charles admits it would be difficult to get the full effect of his show without having seen Lord of the Rings.

This, as well as the wealth of material they offer, is why he bases his productions on popular blockbusters. “It would be as nightmare if only five or six people had seen the film,” he said. “What is great about something like this is that most people have seen it and yet everyone has their own relationship with it.”

Charles launched One Man Lord of the Rings at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year. He enjoyed another sell-out success with the show and once again received widespread acclaim. Even Sir Ian McKellan, who plays Gandalf in the films, gave it a rave review.

The Canadian actor has currently embarking upon a two month, 45-date tour of the UK, which will see him arrive at the Playhouse on February 19 and 20.

“It is busy but I travel on trains and find touring is one of the best ways to see the UK,” he said. “I have been to Norwich several times before and I love it. This time I have some time off while I'm in the city so I play to explore a bit.”

He added: “I love the medieval cities of Britain. In north America all the cities have these grid formats and you can't wander around the small streets as you can somewhere like Norwich.”

And how does he think his Norwich audiences will take to his one-man version of such a famous tale?

Will they enjoy following Frodo and his friends on their quest - in a completely different style?

“I think they will enjoy it a lot,” said Charles. “The One Man Star Wars Trilogy went down well so they should find this one fun too.”

t One Man Lord of the Rings, Norwich Playhouse February 19-20, £15 (£13 cons), 01603 598598, www.norwichplayhouse.co.uk

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