Part of last months Lassfest saw a stage adaptation of an early 2000AD series, The Ballad of Halo Jones written by Alan Moore. But how well will the story of the 51st century girl-next-door and the crazy world of the Hoop translate to the stage?
Halo Jones lives on the Hoop, a futuristic floating slum tethered to a future Manhattan. Citizens of the Hoop live on State Benefit and a diet of soap operas. Halo wants out, and when her best friend is murdered and another joins a youth cult called the Drummers, she might just get that chance…
Created by Alan Moore and drawn by Ian Gibson, their aim was to break out the mold of one-dimensional comic strip characters and create a ordinary heroine – something unlike what was in 2000AD at that time. The rest, as they say, is history.
I hadn’t read the comics prior to seeing the play, and I had been warned that I might find the story difficult to follow as there is a lot of slang and jargon used within, however I needn’t have worried because what followed was one of the most entertaining two hours for a long, long time.
This production of Books One and Two was ably adapted by Ross Kelly. Inventively staged on the ground floor of the Lass O’Gowrie, you wouldn’t have necessarily guessed that it wasn’t a stage play to begin with. Superbly adapted, the conviction of the performances bring the story to life – no mean feat considering there’s no real set as such, just the ambient sounds and lighting. Alan Moore’s characters are allowed to shine and the strengths of the story clearly show as new and old fans alike get caught up in the ballad in a story just as relevant, if not more so, thirty years on from its creation.
The story is full of so many weird and wacky characters yet the Halo Jones cast take this in their stride. Louise Hamer, as Halo, steals the show. Her wide-eyed innocent wonder through to steely determination to escape the trappings of the Hoop are perfectly pitched. Hamer picks up the part of Halo and runs with it making it totally her own. Hamer had great chemistry with Claire Dean as Rodice and Laura Cope as Toy who provided perfect foils either side of the story. Claire Dean is perfectly adept at the comic timing and vulnerability that helps to contrast with Rodice’s hard-as-nails persona. Benjamin Patterson brings the robot dog, Toby, to life with the right amount of menace – his Northern Irish accent adding to his cool, tense portrayal. It helps his performance is captivating enough to sidestep any hardcore fans concerns that Toby is on two legs rather than four.
Danny Wallace pulls off The Glyph, a difficult character who manages to be invisible to everyone. Wallace’s ignorance of the audience, whom he assumes chose not to notice him, whilst simultaneously playing to them makes his loss all the more tragic. Zoe Iqbal is utterly terrific as Swifty Friscoe, the holographic newsreader to citizens of the Hoop. Her body movements and constant flicking of her hair combined with the over-the-top accent providing much hilarity for the audience. Phil Dennison as The Terrorist is terrific with his weasel-like nature, Michelle Ashton carries off the wisdom of Brinna very well and contrasts this nicely with her later turn as a hard-nosed yet hilarious customs official. Paida Noel as the tragic Ludy, tugs on the heartstrings by showing us the hopelessness of living on the Hoop.
Director Daniel Thackeray and Producer Gareth Kavanagh and their cast have worked hard to refine and perfect the show. The two halves of the show, or ‘Books’ contrast each other nicely. The open nature of the Hoop gives way to the claustrophobic Clara Pandy in the second half of the play. Remarkably inventive, airlock, flashback and video sequences are tackled head on in a way that enhances the story rather than detracting from it. Certainly bits of it from the lighting to the nuances of the performance had been refined since I saw it in January. The future is bright for Halo – I understand there are talks of green screen filming to preserve the production. This certainly won’t be the last we see of Halo – next time she turns up do yourself a favour and don’t miss the definitive adaptation of one of the most definitive comics of the twentieth century!
The Fiction Stroker gives The Ballad of Halo Jones five strokes out of five: