A forty eight hour production by its very concept is mad.
To put together a full length production in just two days is an endeavour that treads a fine-line between courage and foolhardiness. But when the performance is a dash through three of the most famous films of all time, never is the line finer. Welcome to the wonderful and insane world of “Watch This presents Star Wars: The 48 Hour”.
The writers had clearly taken some loving care with the subject matter: as well as the attention to detail in props like the enormous painted cardboard Death Star, many lines were lifted directly from the original film. The only main departure was the constant presence of greasy nerd “Gary”, the narrator/line prompter that a 48 hour demands, played disgustingly and with great aplomb by Peter Dewhurst. Some of the funniest moments arose from his interjections, which also served to keep the action moving in the more haphazard moments.
The show, put on in the cavernous Deb Hall, was fittingly on a grander scale than previous 48 Hours. There were constant switches in colour and strength of lighting and even sporadic use of a strobe, most effectively when accentuating the oily Emperor’s (Tommy Elliott) “force-lightning” (silly string), whilst a microphone at the tech desk meant the booming voices of Vader (Dan Burke) and a disturbingly lecherous Obi-Wan Kenobi (Chazz Redhead) were heard over the PA to add a technical quality, whilst great attention was given to the original score throughout: Acapella group Sons of Pitches arrived onstage to sing the legendary theme at one point and during the interval a mock-up “Cantina Band” from Episode IV performed in Joes.
Perhaps the most spectacular parts were the battles at the end of the fifth and sixth films. Whilst Darth Vader (Naomi Pelkiewicz) and Luke fought to harsh strobes, two stage-hands in black morphsuits lifted them about the stage, with Vader even executing a backflip at one stage. That a 48 hour had a “fight choreographer” (Leo West) listed in the program is testament to the play’s ambition.
Predictably, these increased production values also meant that the traditional errors that only having “Two earth moon cycles” for rehearsals will bring were more pronounced. At one point Vader strode onstage only to be sheepishly shooed off again as he was “on the wrong planet”, whilst a supposed “epic battle” was somewhat curtailed by the enemy neglecting to turn up onstage until most of the protagonists had given up and wandered off. On occasion the pleas for “Line?” were so regular that the narrator simply began to read out the dialogue on his own, but this was all lapped up by the excitable audience.
Ultimately, it followed the format of every forty eight hour: regularly side-splitting, often shambolic and always entertaining. However its increased ambition, coupled with a creditable refusal to succumb to simply recycling jokes from the many parodies of Star Wars that already exist was what marked it out: this was at times a genuinely impressive production in its own right and not just in context.