The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Family

★★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 11 Aug 2015

How do you bridge the emotional distance you've always felt has existed between you and your dad? If you're Ben Norris, you hitchhike it – down the M1.

With a handful of hitchhiking signs and a backpack full of memories (and one stuffed toy), Norris recounts the journey he took from the family home in Nottingham to Wembley. The aim? To get to know his Luton FC-loving but closed-off father better by travelling to the places of his youth.

Norris makes for an engaging narrator of his own story, his words a semi-poetic mix of travelogue and reminiscence. He unpacks his relationship with his dad with affecting sadness as he talks of its defining silence. But he's also energetic and funny, dashing about the stage, headbanging to family-holiday car music and offering KitKats to the audience.

The show's multimedia approach also works well. Director Polly Tisdall has created a buzzy blend of live performance with videos from Norris's trip—mostly his enthusiastic but futile thumbing for lifts—and amusing animations signalling his various stops and introducing the people who did actually help him out.

And yet an air of contrivance hovers over this production. Car journeys with his father are a touchstone for Norris, but that doesn't really explain the hitchhiking. And the stories of those he meets (apart from family members) feel more like diversions than significant inroads.

In many ways, this is a great show. But it's hard to shake the feeling that it doesn't quite all hang together.