Comics Legend Alan Moore is perhaps these days just as well known for his stance against the films based on his work, than the work itself. The mind behind Watchmen, V For Vendetta and From Hell may not like it when Hollywood messes with his vision, but a new stage play based on one of his earlier works is much more likely to please the bearded genius. The Ballad Of Halo Jones, from Lass O’Gowrie Productions and Scythe Plays, has come to Leeds as part of the Thought Bubble Festival, and is a very faithful adaptation of a classic comic that is likely to please fans of the original.
Halo Jones first appeared in the pages of the galaxy’s greatest comic, 2000 AD, back in 1984, and was conceived by Moore and artist Ian Gibson as the antithesis of the rest of the comics’ output. Whereas the likes of Judge Dredd and Johnny Alpha where tough-as-nails Alpha-Men, Halo Jones was an ordinary woman in extraordinary circumstances. This was a comic that featured women more prominently than men, and it was a real breath of fresh air.
Moore and Gibson originally planned to tell Halo’s entire life story in 9 parts, but due to legal wranglings between Moore and 2000 AD’s publishers, only 3 stories were ever released, leaving fans left to wonder what Halo would do next. And whilst we will probably never truly know, in the absence of any new comics, this theatrical take is a welcome return to the 50th century.
The play is an adaptation of the first 2 Halo Jones serials. The first of which show Halo’s life on ‘The Hoop’ with her friends Brinna, Rodice, Ludy and her robot dog Toby (he’s not as cute as he seems) as they go on a deadly trip to the mall. Then, when tragedy strikes, Halo escapes from The Hoop and heads off into space as a waitress on an interstellar cruise-ship in Part 2.
The biggest problem a play based on a science fiction story faces is that of suspension of disbelief. There is simply not the budget to make things look truly futuristic and to really put you there. This production attempts to do this through the use of a projector, displaying not only some of the more out there characters Halo meets (such as a navigating dolphin), but also by using some of Gibson’s original artwork from the comics. There were some technical glitches, but overall I felt this to be an effective technique.
But much more effective was the way in which the character’s felt real. As a writer, Alan Moore understood that the characters in the story were more important, and this play is the same. The acting throughout is strong enough, that even if you aren’t really transported to the far-flung future, you are invested in Halo and her friends no matter what. There are several laugh-out-loud moments, and when Halo is in danger, you feel it.
The stand-out performances for me were Sinead Parker as Rodice, who provides some of the play’s funniest moments and Sean Mason as non-entity The Glyph, a poor soul who has had his/her gender re-assigned so many times that nobody notices him/her. Will Hutchby as Toby the Dog is also excellent, good enough that you really do see him as a robot. Zoe Iqbal as the trashy, holographic TV host Swifty Frisco is also very funny. And of course, holding the whole play together is Morag Peacock (above) as Halo herself. In almost every scene, Morag is centre-stage, and her humanity and need to escape shines through.
The Ballad Of Halo Jones is an excellent production, and one that all fans of the original comic should attempt to see. And whilst those who are unfamiliar with the story may find the future world of MAM-Cards and Drummers a little hard to grasp at first, I think this story has something to say to everyone. Whilst it is set in the 50th century and was written in the 1980s, it is still relevant to 2012. Halo Jones is just an ordinary person stuck in the suburbs with no job and no prospects who wants to escape, and that’s something all of us can empathise with.
By Niam Suggitt
The Ballad Of Halo Jones is playing at The Library Scream Pub
There are 2 performances left, both on Saturday the 17th of November, at 12:30pm and 2:45pm.
Tickets are available for £10 at the door or visit www.wegottickets.com to book in advance.