Given the huge number of people it takes to create a modern movie, the idea of distilling one into a solo performance is a daunting task. Taking nearly 6 hours of existing content and turning it into an hour show, while limiting yourself to an empty space and utilising a production company of a single man? Utter madness. But that’s exactly what the One Man Star Wars Trilogy is. And against all the odds, it’s an absolute delight.
Written and performed by Canadian comic Charlie Ross, the One Man Star Wars Trilogy takes audiences through the original Star Wars saga – that is, Episodes IV, V and VI – highlighting the key moments and taking the trilogy from an afternoon sitting, into a brisk and lively (approximately) 1 hour performance.
The hook, aside from the laudable aim of bringing Star Wars to the stage, is the one-man aspect, and it is no simple marketing gimmick. While you may initially assume that props, sound effects and lighting will be used to amplify the effects, the reality is very different.
The stage presented to you upon arriving at the venue is all black, and that is exactly how it remains. With Ross dressed in an equally plain jumpsuit, the rest is left to your imagination (with significant help from the considerable talent of Charlie Ross). Leaping energetically across the stage, Ross mimics the childhood of almost every Star Wars fan, replicating the crackle of a lightsaber, the sound of laser fire overhead, and recreating epic battles on stage.
It’s a testament to the strength of Ross’ performance that at times you could be forgiven for thinking that you were watching a lavish production of the movie. His commitment to the roles, and some incredible soundalikes (Mark Hamill in particular is spot-on) sell the performance, and as you get swept away in the assault on the Death Star, you will get goosebumps as Obi-Wan’s voice returns to guide Luke.
Ross’ physical presence on stage has to be seen to be believed – one moment a bundle of relentless (and seemingly limitless) energy, the next solemnly declaring that many Bothans died, his performance level never drops, and his commitment to the parts is absolute (including some remarkable impressions of Y-Wings and Tie Fighters). Uncanny impressions aside, his mannerisms as each character mean you’re never unclear who is speaking, while simple visual prompts for characters, such as cupping his hands over his ears for Leia’s hair buns will keep non-Star Wars fans in the loop.
And that’s perhaps this show’s most remarkable achievement – whether you’re a Star Wars fan or not, the show is hugely entertaining. Of course, fans of the source material will get endless pleasure from the show, including some hilarious call-backs to the prequels and other embellishments on the source material, but the show itself is so relentlessly entertaining that non-fans will also find it a thoroughly enjoyable evening. I can’t imagine anyone not finding Ross’ Jabba the Hutt hilarious.
Humour is a huge part of the One Man Star Wars Trilogy, with actual lines of dialogue taken in isolation proving to be far funnier than when watching the actual movies. But the show is in no way poking fun at Star Wars – if anything it helps to breed a greater understanding of what is actually happening in the films. And of course, with the way it is presented, the comedy really becomes the defining characteristic of the show.
With breaks between each film allowing Ross to interact with the audience, and perhaps more importantly, catch his breath, the hour flies by – but this is by no means a bad thing. A show that is both homage to the Star Wars franchise, but also lovingly pokes fun at the dialogue and mannerisms of its actors, the One Man Star Wars Trilogy is a superb celebration of everything we love about the original movies.
Ending with a triumphant rendition of “Yub-Nub”, you’ll be on your feet celebrating not only the end of the Empire, but also the genius of Charlie Ross.
I saw the One Man Star Wars Trilogy at Norwich Playhouse in 2016. To find out if the show is near you, visit http://www.onemanstarwars.com/