Home > Reviews, Theatre > The Ballad of Halo Jones, The Stage Play

The Ballad of Halo Jones, The Stage Play

Manchester based pub and venue The Lass O’Gowrie is often on the cutting edge of nerd-cool, and plays host to a wide variety of geek friendly events1, so it was the natural venue of choice for the debut stage production of The Ballad of Halo Jones.

Halo Jones is a much-loved science fiction comic strip by notorious Northampton genius Alan Moore, and is famous for its epic, inter-galactic feel, domestic storyline, and social commentary. So adapting it into a stage-play was always going to be a feat, especially one designed for a small, intimate venue.

The limited space and obvious shoe-string budget have been skilfully turned into an advantage by the production company Scytheplays. A tale that takes us from the depths of a futuristic slum to the heights of space could easily have been achieved given a lavish budget, but is instead portrayed far more effectively through inspired acting and clever verbal cues in the script.

Art by Adrian Salmon

"Where did she go? Out. What did she do? Everything."

The actors are brilliantly cast. Those of you who fell in love with Halo in the pages of 2000AD should be prepared to be equally enchanted by Louise Hamer’s performance. Benjamin Patterson tackles the difficult task of playing the menacing robot dog2 Toby with great skill and care and clearly is having a ball doing so. For me, the most stand-out performance is by Danny Wallace, who plays the doomed, hopeless and sexless creature, The Glyph. It’s a role that requires comic timing, empathy and a gentle touch, and Wallace is perfect throughout.

The script strips the story down into two acts, each about an hour long and covers the first two books3. Fans of the original will be pleased to learn that no major changes to the storyline have been made, and the odder characters (Rats, Dolphins and TV newscasters) are handled in a believable sort of way. Those who’ve never read the book should brace themselves for strange future-speak and a bizarre, yet socially relevant story. The future-shock will pass as the play goes on, but I suspect the social commentary will stay with you.

The Ballad of Halo Jones is as important now as it was when it was first written in 1984, and is a tale that deserves to be heard by a wider audience. If you’re lucky enough to live in Manchester, and have a spare evening, do go and see the show.

1: “The Lass” has vintage video game nights, Doctor Who themed evenings and has played host to the likes of Professor Elemental and Mr B, The Gentleman Rhymer. If you’re lucky enough to live in Manchester, you should take advantage of The Lass.
2: In the graphic novel, Toby is a beautifully drawn robot dog. In the stage-play, they have more obvious limitations, and handle it through a carefully thought out interpretation of the source material. It also helps for Patterson’s performance is spot on.
3: The original work is in three books, the third being a strange, starship troopers style space war. It’d be hard to do well on the stage, and they wisely avoid it. This doesn’t detract from the production at all, especially when you consider that the original book was never properly finished.

Categories: Reviews, Theatre
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  1. January 12, 2012 at 7:08 pm

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