The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family
Written and performed by Ben Norris
The Door, Birmingham
One hour fifteen minutes with no interval.
Review: Sam Crawford, 24nd April
Something to say to all of us.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family is Ben Norris’ first one-man show, but it has already garnered critical acclaim having won the 2015 Ideas Tap Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2015. As Norris openly admits, if you are looking for a parody of Douglas Adam’s science fiction classic then you’re likely to be disappointed, although there are some references subtly woven in along the way. Instead, as opposed to considering whether the meaning of life really is 42, Norris uses this piece of spoken-word poetry as a means of questioning how human beings relate to one another, and the ways in which our relationship with our parents can influence the person we become.
Whilst the show centres on an exploration of Norris’s relationship with his father, it also pushes you to consider deeper questions about how far human-beings are prepared to trust one another, with Norris recalling incidents where he was stuck on a curb for hours with drivers throwing him suspicious looks as they sped past. That scenario is played out in miniature throughout the evening with the audience continually invited to join in with the storytelling. Each time Norris asked for a volunteer or went to interact with someone I felt that he was continuing to test the willingness of strangers to reach out and help him on his journey. If you are prepared to take the risk, though, then there is a good chance you’ll be rewarded with a Kit Kat Chunky or, to quote one audience member, a ‘fantastic cup of coffee’.
As a passenger, I can safely say that I was never bored. Norris makes for a good travelling companion as he shows himself to be an engaging storyteller and a talented poet. This may be an intensely personal piece of work but it is never self-indulgent, with Norris instead using his journey as a means of encouraging us to do some travelling of our own as we ponder how people relate to one another, and the ways in which we occasionally put up barriers to shield ourselves from the difficulties of sharing our vulnerabilities with people that we care about. And, on a final note, if you should see Norris on a kerbside in the future then you may do well to pull over; there is even a good chance that he will take the time to write a poem about you, and potentially put it in a highly successful one-man show.
Writer and Peformer: Ben Norris
Director: Polly Tisdall
Filmmaker: Paul McHale
Lighting Designer: Joe Price
Sound Designer: David Ridley