Decorative image of piles of scripts

Chris Neville-Smith

Things I've done for the stage

Waiting for Gandalf

Image of Kevin sitting outside Fenwicks. Text: Waiting for Gandalf, written by Adrian Marks, Directed by Teresa Hagger, performed by Chris Neville-Smith "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. As others join the queue, he talks about his life-long devotion, friends who don't understand him, family who never had time for him.

But what is Kevin's real reason for his obsession with Tolkein? Why does Kevin need to take his mind away from the harsh realities of life? And how come Kevin doesn't want to go backwards in the story? An uncomfortable truth is about to be revealed.

Waiting for Gandalf, written by Adrian Marks (winner, Golden Brad movie script award 2009, Ovation Theatre Award finalist 2010-2012), was performed by Chris Neville-Smith at the Buxton Fringe 2014, and most recently at the Brighton Fringe in 2016 at Sweet Venues.

NEW! Upcoming performances

Waiting for Gandalf will be performed at the Buxton Fringe at United Reformed Church at 8.30 p.m. on the 18th and 19th of July. Entry to this will be free and unticketed, however, there will be a collection for Mankind.

I intend to have at least one preview. Details to be announced.

Previous performances

Waiting for Gandalf was be performed at Sweet Venues Brighton on the 23rd to the 29th of May at 9.15 in Waterfront 2. There were also four

  • Empty Shop: Wednesday 11th of May, 6.30 p.m.
  • Durham City Theatre: Thursday 19th of May, 7.30 p.m.
  • Royalty Theatre: Friday 10th of June, 8.30 p.m.
  • Bridge Hotel: Saturday 24th of September, 4.00 p.m. (as part of Newcastle Castle's Tolkien weekend).

The local performances were free, but there was a collection for Mankind, one of the few charities that provides support for male victims of sexual abuse. Thanks to everyone who donated, I raised over £160 for this cause.

What they said

Before the run:

Since it's apparently obligatory to quote (with shameless cherry-picking if required), everything that makes the play look good, I can tell you:

  • It was nominated for Best New Writing at the 2014 Buxton Fringe awards.
  • I got the Adjudicator's Award at Saltburn Drama Festival 2015 for my performance.
  • The play I was in the following year was recommended by Fringeguru's Richard Stamp on the strength of Gandalf, who described the play as "dark-as-hell".
  • Brighton Fringe favourite Robert Cohen recommended by play to The Reviews Hub, saying: "I’ll be very interested to see Chris Neville-Smith in Waiting For Gandalf ... Chris is bringing to the Fringe a show which, from what he’s whispered, looks to be considerably darker and more interesting than a play about a Lord of the Rings obsessive might seem to promise."
  • It was listed in FringeReview's Theatre Recommendations and is their Later Evening Theatre Pick.
  • And on the day of the first Brighton Performance, it was named the day's Bold Choice by Richard Stamp of Fringe Guru, who wrote: "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." Wow.

After the run:

And it didn't stop there. After an agonising wait, I came back with a couple of good reviews under my belt:

  • Champagne moment! I got this four-star review from Julia French of Broadway Baby, including - at last! - couple of usable quotes: "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."
  • I was also picked up by theatre blogger Daniel White, who wrote: "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."

Apart from the reviews and recommendations, you can also read and hear this about my play:

  • My interview with The Reviews Hub's light-hearted Brighton Bites.
  • A more in-depth audio interview with Paul Levy from FringeReview, done in the Pavillion Gardens cafe on the day of my final performance.


Some early photos from Janiece Spence, taken at The Old Church, Sacriston. Click on any image for a larger version.

 alt= 'We all need an Aarwen, don't we? Jo, she was mine.' Kevin (Chris Neville-Smith) recalls a fond memory. 'I tried to pretend it wasn't happening. That I was in a nightmare.' Kevin (Chris Neville-Smith) on the floor recalling something horrific.

See also:

Bit more online presence:

For the old production photos, and dates of the original performances, come over to the archive page.