Decorative image of piles of scripts

Chris Neville-Smith

Things I've done for the stage

Waiting for Gandalf (2018)

written by Adrian Marks

directed by Patrick Sandford

from an original production directed by Teresa Hagger

No hobbits … Just a very human hero.

"It’s too complete a story to go backward. Yes, forwards is the only way to go. Looking back is such a waste isn’t it? It’s what’s going to be that we should be bothered with. Not all that was. I mean, the past is the past. History. Learn from it and move on."

Meet Kevin Brook, self-confessed fanatic of all things 'Lord of the Rings'. On the eve before 'Gandalf' signs the official movie companion to 'The Two Towers', he sits outside Fenwicks, waiting. He talks about his life-long devotion, friends who don't understand him, family who never had time for him. But what's the real reason for his obsession with Tolkein? Why must he take his mind away from the harsh realities of life? An uncomfortable truth is about to be revealed. “Dark-as-hell” (Fringe Guru) ★★★★★ (Albie Media) ★★★★ (Broadway Baby)

When to see it

Waiting for Gandalf will be performed at Sweet Werks 1 on the 14th - 20th May at 6.00 p.m.. Tickets can be bought from:

  • In advance from Sweet Venues online.
  • In advance from the Brighton Fringe Box office online - but the booking fee is higher and we get less money.
  • In person at Brighton Fringe Box Office in advance of the fringe, if you are lucky enough to be in Brighton.
  • In person at either Brighton Fringe Box Office or any Sweet Venues Box Office (Werks, Dukebox or the Wellie) during the fringe.

There will also be a preview at The Assembly Rooms, Durham on the 5th May at 7.30 p.m. Tickets are available on the door or online from the Assembly Rooms.

Media coverage

FringeGuru preview, Brighton Fringe 2016: "This dark-as-hell one-man play, which we saw at the Buxton Fringe a couple of years ago, makes uncomfortable but rewarding viewing. Telling the life story of an obsessive and socially-awkward Lord Of The Rings fan, the script slowly turns from gentle humour to something far more disturbing – as the reasons for the man’s introspection are gradually revealed. Actor (and theatre blogger) Chris Neville-Smith delivered a brutally uncompromising performance last time round." Richard Stamp

Broadway Baby review, Brighton Fringe 2016: "This is a nuanced, sympathetic performance of a lost soul that really tugs at the heart strings ... Be prepared for a challenging hour with a dark ending, but expect to leave feeling it was an hour well spent." Julia French

Albie Media review, Brighton Fringe 2016: Waiting For Gandalf touches, powerfully, on areas of abuse, loss and family break up but also the message of caring and acceptance with all in our society is one that could not be more timely. In a society that is too quick to judge what is seen at face value, Waiting For Gandalf challenges us to look a little closer." Daniel White

FringeReview, Brighton Fringe 2016: Audio interview with Paul Levy.

Buxton Fringe review, Buxton Fringe 2017: "Solo performer Chris Neville-Smith demands your attention from the moment he staggers onto the stage as Tolkein uber - nerd Kevin. In a performance ridden with tics and half-remembered, half buried slices from his past Kevin draws us into his increasingly darkening world. It’s a wonderfully seductive performance of a humorous and scathingly honest script by Adrian Marks that leads you down one path whilst always hinting that another lies in wait." David Hanson

GScene preview, Brighton Fringe 2018: "OVER the past two years the enterprising and imaginative Brighton based charity Mankind has been establishing a reputation for presenting lively, provocative theatre at the Brighton Fringe: GROOMED (2016), BLOOMING and BETWEEN YOU AND ME (2017). This year the emphasis, despite the title of Adrian Marks’ play, moves far from Hobbits, onto the hidden hero inside all of us – however ordinary we may feel. Vulnerable, plucky… the hero emerges in ways startling, comic and profoundly human."

Background

I first came across Waiting for Gandalf at Live Theatre Writers' Group in 2011. Three years later in 2014, having already done Buxton Fringe once, I was looking for another play I could take to keep myself on their radar. This was ideal for me, so I got permission from Adrian Marks and went ahead. It fared about the same as last year in terms of ticket sales, but it got enough attention of reviewers to make me consider the tougher challenge of Brighton. The goal, to start with, was simply to see if I could do it.

And so, in 2016, owing to a combination of sufficiently good coverage, being unavailable during July for Buxton Fringe, news that Sweet Venues were setting up in Brighton and were looking for acts. By this time, I was keen that I should do something about the issue this play covers. So I asked Sweet Venues if they could recommend any charities that support male victims of sexual violence. Coincidentally, it turned out Brighton is home of one of the few organisations that does this, Mankind. Doubly coincidentally, they were putting on their own play, Groomed, where Patrick Sandford talked out his own experiences. Triply coincidentally, the play was being done in exactly the same venue as me.

Anyway, my play again picked up more good reviews but still nothing impressive at the box office. Groomed, on the other hand, was a huge success, getting five-star reviews from basically everyone you can get five-star reviews from. I carried on doing Waiting for Gandalf at a few other places and by mid-2017 assumed this has run its course. Then, out of the blue, Mankind contacted me and asked me to return with the play as part of their Community Squared Portfolio.

So here I am. Patrick Sandford is directing me this time, and I'm in a bigger venue. It will be a different experience this time - up to now, the ending is meant to come out of the blue, but now that the association with Mankind gives the game away, the focus changesa lot. And that brings me up to today. The moral of the story: you never know where your opportunities will lie.