Perhaps you're familiar with those web-animated bunnies who re-enact popular movies in 30 seconds. Or maybe you've seen some of the spate of YouTube videos along the lines of 'x in 8 minutes'. (If you haven't, take a look - they're funny!) One Man Star Wars Trilogy is like that, but for an hour.
The premise of One Man Star Wars is simple - three movies, one man, in an hour. And that's pretty much what it is. As performer Charles Ross enters the stage and starts humming the 20th Century Fox tune, it quickly becomes apparent that this is going to be a faithful scene-by-scene reproduction of the entire trilogy. As this realisation dawns, one imagines those in the audience who have not seen any of the movies being filled with a sense of dread regarding the hour ahead and surreptitiously scanning for the exits.
It is funny, though. Ross is quite acrobatic, can seamlessly switch between voices and has an uncanny knack for doing spot-on sound effects. Explosions, Darth Vader's breathing and R2D2 are all faithfully reproduced and come to life instantly. Ross also has Luke Skywalker's adolescent whininess down to a tee and this is the subject of running gags throughout the show.
Much of the dialogue in the 6-hour trilogy is necessarily - and mercifully - skipped over, sometimes for comic effect. What's left are the essentials of the Star Wars plot (three words I never thought I'd use together), the characterisations and of course the sounds.
Though he clearly loves the films, Ross is not afraid to poke fun at them. Large swaths of dialogue he dismisses by delivering them hurriedly as 'exposition, exposition, exposition', jokes are made about Mark Hamill's acting, various plot holes and inconsistencies are exposed and when it is revealed Luke has a sister he says 'of course it's Princess Leah, she's the only woman in the film!'
It's fun, but it goes on too long. Like someone talking in a helium-filled voice, sounds that were funny at first quickly become tired and predictable. There are occasional high-points, such as the collapse and destruction of the Imperial Walker, which was beautifully executed and earned a huge round of applause. The famous fight between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi was well done, as was the whole Jabba the Hutt sequence in Return of the Jedi. Much of the humour in these scenes derives from the anticipation beforehand - 'how the hell is he going to do this bit?' you wonder, and then he does and it's perfect.
As Ross has fun portraying Han Solo's ratbag character who still gets the girl, the air is palpable with the awe of hundreds of geeks thinking 'I want to be him'. Ross knows his audience (95% male, 70% with at least two game consoles) and has them eating out of his hand.
The problem with the show is the performer is better than the material. Ross has a real aptitude for capturing the essence of things and expressing them through physical comedy and sound. His editing is tight and his transitions between scenes are far more elegant and sophisticated than those dreadful wipe effects Star Wars is famous for.
It's hard to believe Ross has been performing this show for 7 years. To be honest he seems a bit bored with it. The Canadian performer is returning to Melbourne next year for the Comedy Festival where he will be performing a new show - One Man Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I'm sure it will be just as funny and well-executed, but I don't know if I'll go see it. It feels like I've already seen it in my head just thinking about it. I'm more interested in seeing a show where Ross steps out from behind the mediocrity of creakingly contrived scripts and shows us what he's really capable of.
One Man Star Wars Trilogy
Venue: Forum Theatre, Flinders Street, Melbourne
Dates/Times: Thursday 19 & Friday 20 November – 7.30pm Saturday 21 November – 5.00pm & 8.00pm
Tickets: Adult $52, Concession $44, Family $175
Bookings: ticketek.com.au, 132 849 or Forum Theatre Box Office 03 9299 9800