Most people hitchhike to simply get from A to B. In fact, most people don’t really hitchhike much at all in 2015. Why put your life in the hands of total strangers when you can get a Megabus journey for a pound? One single British pound. Still cheaper than a Freddo.
For Ben Norris, A to B is from Nottingham to Wembley – straight down the M1 – but he’s not simply traveling. He is embarking on a journey of dad-discovery…sort of similar to self-discovery but less indulgent and more emotionally exhausting. Through the marvel of geographical nostalgia, Ben tries desperately to better understand his father – a father who worships Luton Town FC, and leaves the room to make a cuppa when conversations take a sharp turn into the realms of feelings.
It’s not surprisingly in the slightest to learn that Ben Norris is a poet as well as a performer/playwright. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family is full of rich metaphors and linguistic gems without sounding pretentious, and this is by far the show’s best quality. If you’ll pardon my clichéd use of phrasing, Norris just has a way with words.
One particularly touching moment comes towards the end, where one front row audience member is hugged by Norris for a good minute or so. A long hug, by anyone’s standards. The metaphor being that said audience member represents dad. Even know we know that audience member is probably just Steve from Coventry, the sentiment is still incredibly powerful. Especially since we can guess that Father Norris is probably not the hugging kind. Maybe Steve isn’t the hugging kind either. Maybe Steve then remembers that he cannot remember the last time he hugged his son.
This is the sort of sentimentalism The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family inspires. It’s incredibly upbeat and funny at times, but leaves room for emotional matters, like never having enough time and never saying the right things. With his hitchhiking dad-tour down the M1, Norris reminds us the importance of showing your loved ones that you love them – and that could come in the form of words, or a simple hug, or a card on their birthday… or perhaps a one-man show at the Edinburgh Fringe.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family is playing at Underbelly Cowgate (venue 61) until August 30th. For more information, visit the Fringe website.
*I’m not being sponsored by Megabus.
** Or Cadbury’s.