The audience, packed with towel-clutching, dressing gown-wearing fans, buzzed with excitement at the prospect of seeing the Hitchhiker's Guide cast back together again.
First broadcast by a reluctant BBC in March 1978, Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quickly developed a cult status unparalleled by any radio show before or since.
The last 35 years have seen five series, six books, a TV show and a movie but the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has now returned to its original and best format, with a never before attempted twist – a live audience.
After a successful few months touring the UK, the original cast and crew finally arrived at the Manchester Opera House on Monday 2 July for their three-day run.
The stage with six mics, a high backed leather chair and space for a small band, gave little clue as to what the night might hold.
Occasional familiar noises from the show and atmospheric fog added to the sense of excitement as we settled into our seats.
The show exploded into action with music from the on-stage band – featuring director Dirk Maggs on drums – which incorporated the famous theme music to Doctor Who (which Adams also worked on).
Although fans would undoubtedly been more than happy to watch the original cast reading from scripts, it became immediately apparent that the live show had more to offer, particularly for newcomers.
While the cast held scripts throughout, this did not detract from their performance and costumes, sets and props gave the show the feel of a theatre piece whilst staying true to the original format.
Dirk Maggs’ expertly assembled script incorporated stories from all five of the Hitchhiker’s radio series.
The show maintained a solid storyline focused around the Vogons’ demolition of earth, whilst also factoring in the occasional side reference or odd gag that might otherwise have been cut.
Looking around the room as the most memorable lines were read, it felt like being at a rock concert, as the audience silently mouth the words in time with the cast.
Simon Jones (Arthur Dent), Geoff McGivern (Ford Prefect), Susan Sheridan (Trillian) and Mark Wing-Davey (Zaphod Beeblebrox) were joined by guest narrator, John Challis, as the Voice of the Book.
The voice of Stephen Moore brought back to life a specially created and occasionally show-stealing Marvin the Paranoid Android crafted from old analogue radio parts and expertly maneuvered by Tom Maggs.
To the side of the stage, an effects table gave the audience a true insight into how the sounds were created for the radio series as Dirk Maggs and sound techs performed them live.
By blending high-tech technology with the almost vintage visual of the guide on the asteroid-shaped back screen, the show feels familiar yet slots easily into the 21st century.
What was most pleasing about the show was not just the fantastic script and near perfect delivery of the old lines, but the obvious camaraderie and fondness the cast clearly still feel for the Guide and each other.
The show feels first and foremost like a well-deserved homage to the wit and brilliance of Douglas Adams. In the final moments of the finale, his image is displayed on the screen for the audience to applaud.
For old fans and newcomers alike, this show is not to be missed. To borrow a phrase from the series – share and enjoy!