<I>Herge's Adventures of Tintin</I> At The Barbican - Is It Any Good?

By Rob Last edited 159 months ago
<I>Herge's Adventures of Tintin</I> At The Barbican - Is It Any Good?

Ever since Londonist heard that the Young Vic was planning to stage the famous boy reporter's quest to save his friend Chang from the perilous slopes of the Himalayas we've been willing them to get it right.

It was a huge task even for a director with the pedigree of Rufus Norris, so it was with some trepidation that we scanned the broadsheets for the first reviews over the weekend.

As far as Kate Bassett in the Independent is concerned we needn't have worried.

"Norris' actors, playing multiple parts and music too (on fiddles, saxes and percussive suitcases) create brilliantly playful physical theatre," says Bassett who is suitably impressed by the Young Vic's ability to conjour up mountain ranges, aeroplanes and "seven-foot hairy yetis".

And for anyone who thinks that this is all kids stuff there's also a gentle reminder that Herge's tails weren't all tame:

There's a very dark, scary passage when they find the wrecked skeleton of the aircraft in which Chang was a passenger, with the dead still in their seats, suddenly choiring, "Save me". Prim parents should also probably be warned: one or two wildly liberated bits of slang are lobbed into Haddock's volleys of joke-expletives. However, this is carried off with merry, breathtaking brio, quite free of seedy, panto-style innuendo.

In the Telegraph Charles Spencer is equally enthusiastic, although he expresses it in a slightly weirder manner:

Returning to Tintin after more years than I care to contemplate, and delighting once again in Hergé's beautiful draughtsmanship and stirring power as a storyteller, I concluded that the Young Vic must have all the brains of a bearded clam in attempting to bring one of the boy reporter's best adventures to the theatre.


Apparently the opening scenes are a little rough and ready, with 'too much shouting' (Kate Basset noticed this too) and 'lots of running around' but once things settle down, says Spencer, the production becomes "a gripping delight".

Adjectives that you wouldn't expect also creep into the review: "complex" and "emotional" for example, as it seems the dramatisation hasn't excised the heart and soul of Herge's work.

The Young Vic's production gets it's worst review in the Guardian where it's given three stars by Michael Billington.

"While this version of the cartoon adventures of the bequiffed Tintin staged in tandem with the Barbican, is full of visual delights," says Billington, "it lacks the narrative richness and Gothic splendour of some of those earlier shows."

Unlike the other reviewers, Billington seems unimpressed by the recreation of some of the book's more dramatic scenes:

When Tintin and Haddock, for instance, are left dangling perilously from a rockface and the latter offers to sacrifice his life for the former, it is breathtaking in the book. On stage, all you see is actors swaying on ropes with little sense of the spatial vastness beneath them.

Although by the final paragraph one gets the feeling that it's the choice of medium (i.e. the 'comic') that Billington doesn't like: "What we have here is witty, clever and ingenious. But, for all the skill on display, I felt that nothing could match the original's pictorial evocation of blizzard, mountain and crevasse and that cartoons belong more to the page than the stage."

Still, three stars is nothing to sniff at, and placed alongisde the other two reviews it looks like Herge's Adventures of Tintin is definitely worth a trip.

Last Updated 19 December 2005