Interview: Neil Gaiman, of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Live

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
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ARTHUR Dent’s planet has been demolished and he’s still wearing his dressing gown...

People of Earth, well, Edinburgh... the Vogans are coming! So grab your towel, stick a Babel fish in your ear and prepare to hitch-hike across the galaxy.

Neil Gaiman. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Neil Gaiman. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Thirty-four years ago, Douglas Adams introduced radio listeners to a menagerie of wonderful characters - Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Marvin the paranoid android and Trillian to name a few.

Adams’ now classic sci-fi yarn has since spawned a trilogy of books (in five parts) and a big-budget movie (2005). But it’s the original radio and TV versions of The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy that are remembered most fondly.

At the Edinburgh Playhouse on Saturday, members of the original radio cast, including Simon Jones, Mark Wing-Davey, Geoffrey McGivern, Susan Sheridan and Stephen Moore, will be reunited in The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy Radio Show - Live.

They will be joined by a new name, graphic novelist and writer Neil Gaiman, who will play The Book - Peter Jones, who played the role on radio and TV, died in 2000.

No stranger to sci-fi, having recently written an episode of Doctor Who, the creator of The Sandman comic book series is excited about his challenge.

“I heard the very first radio incarnation of the show. I had turned on while it was in progress, so I had no idea what it was, but I was transfixed.

“From the moment that Ford informed Arthur that he was turning into an infinite number of penguins, I decided that whatever I had been listening to was absolutely amazing.

“I always loved Peter Jones’ delivery of the Guide, and all I can hope to do on stage is that, really.”

Gaiman’s involvement in the Radio Show Live came about as the result of a project he embarked on back in 1986.

He recalls, “I suppose partly it came about because in 1986 I wrote the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy companion, Don’t Panic!

“I interviewed Douglas a couple of times, and at that point everything got really, really cool. I’d sort of become part of the Hitch-hiker’s family.

“I think Douglas was a genius, and that’s not actually a word I toss around very lightly or use very much.

“But Douglas didn’t think in quite the same way that you or I think. He saw things from round corners and upside down, and I think he genuinely was a genius.

“It is one of the tragedies of today that he died at the age that he did - ridiculously early - and I wish that he was around.”

As the Radio Show Live tours the UK, The Book will be played by different guest stars, but Gaiman reveals that when offered the chance to join the cast there was only one city he ever considered performing in.

“Oddly enough, I think I’ve spent more time in Edinburgh over the past few years than I have in any other city in the UK. Partly that’s because my wife [the musician Amanda Palmer] loves it so much.

“I was offered my choice of any city I wanted and I picked Edinburgh.”

And if Gaiman had his very own copy of a real-life Guide, what would be the first thing he would look up?

“I would probably check out if there were any teleportation booths that any aliens had set up on Earth that were still functioning.

“I’m somebody who travels too much. I have a carbon footprint that is ridiculously big and I keep planting trees to offset it.

“It’s getting to the point where I need to plant forests... All I want to do is move from one point to another without the time in between.”

• The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show Live!, Edinburgh Playhouse, Saturday, 7.30pm, £19-£29.50, www.atgtickets.com/edinburgh