Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Based on the novel by Dr Hunter S Thompson, adapted for the Stage by Lou Stein

The Heritage Arts Company

The Vault

From 28 January 2014 to 08 March 2014

Review by Philip Fisher

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Little did he know it but when Dr Hunter S Thompson invented Gonzo journalism, he created the blog forty years before the rest of humanity discovered the medium.

Compared with the film version that inexplicably turned a wildly exciting literary romp into an insipid screen experience, this stage version is a gas (and at times a very intoxicating one).

The storyline follows Thompson's alter ego Raoul Duke and his Samoan attorney who goes by the pseudonym of Dr Gonzo as they travel at breakneck speed to Las Vegas to cover a car race.

The pair are fuelled by cocktails of every upper and downer in existence, allowing Ed Hughes and Rob Crouch respectively playing the drug-addled journalist and a drug-addled lawyer to indulge in excesses without any need for director Lou Stein to rein them in. The energy levels are bolstered by some very funny lines.

The second half somewhat loses its way, delivering much more of the same. The plot variation is that the journalist with the doctorate has been asked to cover a conference of District Attorneys in gaps between more sex and drugs with a soundtrack of rock and roll.

Somewhere along the way, there is also a brief sojourn to a drive-thru diner in search of the American Dream.

Lou Stein's generally well-paced and humorous production is played out in a very wide but claustrophobically low and narrow space, graced with a stylish design from Rosie Moon incorporating widescreen projections by Peter Wilms and drawings from the Doctor's favourite collaborator, Ralph Steadman.

What could be a very confusing evening is helped immensely by the presence of John Chancer playing a Hunter S Thompson lookalike narrator, who keeps the story rolling along.

At two hours, the play is probably a little longer than ideal but should have the desired effect of attracting and enthusing younger audiences and sending them off to discover the delights of Gonzo journalism.

The theatre space itself is far from perfect, with very uncomfortable seating and non-existent sightlines meaning that there is hardly a good seat in the house. This is a shame, as the visual impression that the company is seeking to make becomes dissipated, reducing the impact of a very adventurous production.