The Hobbit review at Williamson Park, Lancaster – ‘a spectacular setting’

Russell Richardson in The Hobbit at Williamson Park, Lancaster. Photo: Joel Fildes
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It took a blockbuster trilogy to bring Bilbo Baggins’ awfully big adventures in The Hobbit to the screen. But Kevin Dyer’s new adaptation tells the epic tale of the hairy-footed one and the wandering grey wizard in less than three hours. As in previous Dukes’ summer walkabout productions, now stretching back to 1987, genuine Gandalfian magic is supplied by Williamson Park, overlooking Morecambe Bay, which easily passes as the mythological habitat located by JRR Tolkien somewhere in “the north-west of the Old World, east of the sea”.

Barney George has created a distinct Hobbit-like visual style for sets and costumes, although the park’s rocky outcrops, twisting paths and shadowy dells provide a natural environment for tree spirits, goblins, dwarves and assorted Middle-earth dwellers to sneak about in.

Director Joe Sumsion and a cast augmented by the Dukes’ Young Company, who must spend half their time off-stage changing costumes while nipping from one dramatic set-piece to another at five forest locations, definitely succeed in capturing the playful other-worldliness of hobbit lore while overcoming logistical challenges. And, with a nod to our own world, key characters in Tolkien’s all-male tale, including Gollum and Thorin, are conjured up with lots of earthy spirit by Josie Cerise and Natalia Campbell.

Yet, with Russell Richardson’s sage-like Gandalf leading Gareth Cassidy’s over-chirpy Bilbo Baggins – and the audience – on a quest to reclaim the dwarves’ misty mountain home, the narrative drive tends to need kick-starting after each between-scenes woodland trail, although a terrific final battle in a cavernous gorge eventually cranks up the action.

The spectacular setting is more than just the backdrop to this amiable walkabout production