The promise of a one-man show based on Peter Jackson’s epic film adaptation of Tolkien’s classic saga may conjure images of a lone actor sitting in his hobbit-hole and quietly puffing a pipe while recounting his adventures with Gandalf. Riley Smith’s production is not that. At all.
As he explains up front, he has not written a script. Rather, he was watched the Extended Edition of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring so many times that he knows by heart every detail, which he then performs for you with madcap enthusiasm and gloriously absurd specificity. Watching him feels rather like a combination of watching a hyperactive child rave about a particularly exciting experience and listening to an obsessive geek show off his encyclopedic knowledge of a favorite topic.
It’s a wild and exhilarating half-hour – as much athletic performance and physical endurance test as conventional acting – which must be seen to believed. Riley does not merely tell the story; he enthusiastically delivers every line of dialogue and breathlessly performs every action: swinging swords, running from danger, bouncing off walls when pierced by arrows, and falling down dead with struck by a mace.
The energy of his performance is balanced a comically pedantic penchant for detail: he begins by describing the New Line Cinema logo forming on screen, follows up by noting every time the screen goes black in between the various titles, and underlines everything by humming the background score. As if this were not enough, he dutifully performs repeated actions (e.g., the nine men receiving the rings of power, ten hobbit children running past), and the audience starts counting out loud to make sure he finishes.
About midway, the conceit of the presentation wears ever so slightly thin, and by the time it is over you are glad that Smith performs only the first thirty minutes of the film* – for his own sake as well as ours, because he looks exhausted. Nevertheless, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Extended Edition, Part 1 is a curious triumph. Beyond the audacity of pulling off such a stunt, Riley provides an insight or two into the film he is recreating: he jokes about bad green-screen effects, notes that the score’s main theme repeats a lot, and his line readings (delivered with exaggerated smiles, giggles, and gestures) suggest that some of the dialogue is not that great but only seems so because it was delivered by a great cast in a film loaded with winning production values. Still, his one-man show is more reconstruction than deconstruction, and it provides far more fun than we would have expected from watching someone simply act out a movie.
- Hence the “Part 1” in the title.
LORD OF THE RINGS: FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING-EXTENDED ED. P. 1
1 – Avoid
2 – Not all bad
3 – Recommended
4 – Highly Recommended
5 – Must See
Riley Smith’s one-man show of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Extended Edition, Part 1 is as much athletic performance and physical endurance test as conventional acting, with him bouncing off walls and falling on the floor while acting out the first half-hour of Peter Jackson’s film with comical attention to minute detail. An unexpectedly hilarious experience – highly recommended.
Cast and Crew: Adapted & Performed by Riley Smith.
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Extended Edition, Part 1 gives its final performance at Hollywood Fringe Festival on Saturday, June 24 at 11:55pm in the Studio room of Broadwater Theatre. The address is 1078 Lillian Way, Los Angeles, CA 90038. Get more information here.