Adam El Hagar is the charming, personable young Johnny Depp in this frenetic depiction of his relationship with larger than life gonzo journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson, played by Sam Coulson.
It’s the spring of 1997. Method actor Johnny moves into Hunter’s basement and lives there for four months in an attempt to “climb inside this man and inhabit his soul” in order to play him in the upcoming film of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Subsisting on a daily diet of cocaine, cigarettes and orange juice, Hunter wakes up at 3pm, shoots some stuff, writes some stuff, maybe drops some Guatemalan acid, and goes to bed at 8 in the morning. Johnny has to keep up with the whole thing.
His movements frantic and exaggerated, Thompson is simply bizarre, crazy and relentlessly energetic. Just like gonzo journalism. Coulson captures it all perfectly, all erratic gestures and loud bursts of speech. El Hagar is unmistakably Johnny, from the cheekbones down to the last moustache hair.
Together, in their matching mirrored aviators and sunhats, the pair are a sight to behold as El Hagar as Johnny becomes Johnny as Hunter. It’s an amusing coincidence that both actors must have had to go through a similar process to the one they are performing in order to portray these legendary characters so perfectly. They’ve even got their voices down to a tee. It is truly uncanny.
Peppered with references to both character’s public lives (Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, Benicio del Toro and Ralph Steadman all have passing mentions) this is perhaps a show best enjoyed by Depp/Thompson enthusiasts. Hunter’s tragic suicide is not specifically mentioned but again, it’s assumed common knowledge.
Trippy, funny and with downright impressive feats of acting, Hunter and Johnny is a fitting tribute to both a great performer and a journalism legend.
Hunter and Johnny plays at ZOO until 25 August 2014 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. For more information and tickets, visit the EdFringe website.