Drug-addled duo Raoul Duke and Dr Gonzo, played by Tom Moores and Rob Crouch, embark on their wild adventure to Las Vegas with the most extensive collection of illegal substances you’ve ever heard of once again, but this time in theatrical form.
From the red Cadillac in the centre, which also transforms into a bed and a hotel lobby to give us the Vegas experience, Moores and Crouch throw caution to the wind in order to the play the outrageous characters in Hunter S. Thompson’s cult novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Crouch is the psychopathic attorney to Moores’ eccentric journalist, and together they head to Vegas to cover the Mint 400 motorcycle race. Both give compelling performances in this surreal comedy drama.
To the left of the stage, John Chancer narrates as an older and slightly more sober Hunter S. Thompson, providing much needed clarity to the main protagonists’ incoherence and generally just a sensible presence to the otherwise ridiculous proceedings. Sammy Kissin and Ben Hood, who form the supporting cast, give commendable performances as the array of colourful characters harassed by Gonzo and Duke – Thompson’s alter-ego – along their journey.
Whilst it borrows liberally from Terry Gilliam’s 1998 film adaptation of the book, its clever use of audiovisual effects successfully immerses us in the hallucinatory landscape of the story. Long-time friends with Ralph Steadman, who provided illustrations for the original book, director Lou Stein uses projections of Steadman’s work, as well as lurid lighting techniques and choice tracks like the Stones’s ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ to immerse us in the gritty soul of the 70s.
Evoking the essence of gonzo journalism, a genre pioneered by Thompson, this stage adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is erratic, frenetic and fun. Slickly produced, it’s a rollercoaster of maniacal highs and lows, it’s inexorably energetic, and unmistakably gonzo.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas plays at Pleasance Courtyard until 25 August 2014 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. For more information and tickets, visit the EdFringe website.