Middle Earth came to life with The Raglan Theatre Academy’s rendition of The Hobbit and right from the get-go you know you’re in for a very special journey.
Adapted by director and producer Ruth Hare, J.R.R Tolkien’s enchanting tale follows Gandalf the Sorcerer (Connor Marquand) as he leads Bilbo Baggins (Iemaja Hassell) and his Dwarf companions off on a frightening but magical journey to hunt for the powerful hidden treasure that must be returned to its rightful owners.
Despite his initial objections, Bilbo follows the Dwarves and led by their king-in-exile Thorin Oakenshield (Taliah Edgecombe-Pearse) on a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and its treasures from the dragon Smaug (Vida Bradbury).
Iemaja is an absolute star bringing the cleverness, emerging courage and compassion of hobbit Bilbo to life, as the wizard Gandalf’s and Dwarves ‘burglar’ for hire because ‘dragons can’t smell Hobbits’.
Playing a very sage and serious Gandalf, Connor delivers words of wisdom and a calming influence throughout the production.
Ruth makes full use of the cast, from the newest to the more mature actors, and each one plays their role with charm and confidence.
We are introduced to some of the youngest actors as the Hobbit villagers (Brooklyn Bayliss Sylive Duggan-Haughey, Te Arahia Hira, Pippa Allen, Lennox Lindfield, Pounamu Tepania, Marvin Daniel, Byron Freidrich, Lucy Ladyman, Eva Clarke and Mackenzie Lally) as they gather at the marketplace and perform a delightful folk dance, ending with a stunning pyrotechnic display.
The Dwarves (Luna Petzold de la Cruz, Jayde Jansen Van Vuuren, Cassidy Hanna, Maria Grill, Stella O’Donnell, Bella Alexander and Katie Buckton) are a rapscallion bunch, who endear themselves to the audience, led by the very fearless Thorin hellbent on reclaiming the throne and the lost treasure.
Their journey to the Lonely Mountain is full of peril and along the way they must overcome some formidable characters, including goblins, spiders and trolls.
The goblins (Ivy Brunskill, Sol O’Loughlin, Emma Roughton, Satori van Staden, Isla Stephens, Cormag Eadie, Eli O’Connorand Grace McGregor) are brilliant as they attempt to make a supersonic mess in a battle to Queens’ ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’.
Catching Bilbo in their web, the spiders (Conor Allen, Remy Grant, Diego Henderson, Alaia Hewett, Kaya Le Gouais Borgoo, Rya Ruka, Ruby Olsen, Isla Kirk-Orman, Selva Petzold de la Cruz, Amarda-Aroha Rolton, Torrie Stephens, Sofia Tovio-Smith and Caleb van Staden) do a stellar job of making your skin crawl.
Some of the best accents are found with the Trolls (Taylor Hanna, Ethan Kirk-Orman and Indie Ruka) whose obnoxiousness matches their outlandish costumes.
From Lady Galadriel (Summer Maybee-Waitere), Lady Elrond (Isabeau Conjearts) and Queen Thranduil (Leila-Rose Skeates) to Tauriel (Sashka Highway) and Legolas (Maia Holland), the Elves are regal and poised.
The Orcs and Wargs (Jivan Rao, Ayla Lindfield, Danielle Marquand, Matta Daniel, Enfys Hewett, Zaira O’Donnell, Nikau Pinfold, Isobel Peart, Mickey Brajkovic and Isla Beeby) do a great job of giving wolves and punk rockers a very bad name, as they spread dread and tension throughout the show.
It is Annie Fisher who steals the show with a schizoid creepiness; she combines humour and horror as a disturbingly convincing Gollum.
Vida’s delivers a powerfully fearsome Smaug in the most remarkable costume of the night, featuring a lengthy scaly tail and glow-in the-dark eyes.
Ruth’s choreography brings the whole production to life, as each delightful folk dance and fearsome battle scene is played out on stage; the final slow motion battle scene is outstanding.
The stage hands provide a deft-touch as they shift the scenery between scenes, Pete van Weerden set construction is standout, makeup and hair by Angela Fisher and Amy Hanna is stunning and Maddie Alexander costume designs are sensational, as always.
Images thanks to Amy Hanna and Leanne Roughton