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Galaxy quest.

Byline: Catherine Jones

AS ALL devoted fans of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (and there are a lot of them) know well, the answer to life, the universe and everything is - 42.

And while Roger McGough isn't working on quite that number of projects, the poet is certainly keeping himself pretty busy.

Earlier this year, the president of the Poetry Society created the "doors" project at the Museum of Liverpool. He has a new book of verse coming out this August and entitled As Far As I Know. And then there's the latest in his "McGoughiere" series of Molire plays which gets its premiere at the Playhouse next spring.

Now, on top of all that, the 74-year-old is taking on the role of the voice of the actual Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in a live stage version of the original radio show, coming to the Empire this month.

"Why am I doing it?" he muses from his home in London. "I'd finished my book and the play, and I suddenly got this invitation to go on tour as the voice of the book.

"It's something different. It's quite nerve-racking in the sense, because I'm not known as an actor or a comic actor.

"The actors who have done it for years will be running around and being very good and I just need to make sure I can say all these funny long words."

Roger is one of a number of special guests deputising as the book during the production's UK tour. Alongside Liverpool, he will also be on stage at Blackpool, Oxford and Southampton, while other dates are manned by names including Phill Jupitus, ex-Python Terry Jones, and Ormskirk's finest, Jon Culshaw.

The poet met Hitchhiker's late creator Douglas Adams once when he went for supper with the late author; he thinks the invitation was something to do with Terry Jones, but can't be sure.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show - Live! meanwhile reunites the original radio (and TV) cast including Simon Jones as Arthur Dent, Geoff McGivern (Ford Prefect) and Mark Wing-Davey as the two-headed Zaphod Beeblebrox.

"I'll have to get used to people with two heads in the audience," adds Roger, who believes the last time he was on stage at the Empire was in the Scaffold "glory days". "What occurs to me in the middle of the night, when I wake up in a sweat, is that the audience will mouth the words and if you're not saying them quite right, what will they say? Actually, I'm quite looking forward to it."

So that's Hitchhiker's. But what of Molire? Roger scored a critical hit (this reviewer alone gave it 10/10) with his version of the French playwright's comedy Tartuffe in Capital of Culture year.

He followed it with the equally well-received The Hypochondriac.

Now he's set to return with another of the 17th-century writer's works.

The play is in verse, and satirises the hypocrisies of French aristocratic society.

"I did um and ah a lot," says Roger of his decision to adapt a third Molire play. "And I thought maybe I'd done it enough and would they sound the same. I looked at different ones.

"I just got into this story. But it is difficult because nothing really happens. Still, I really enjoyed it and I think the verse works. However, there are no closets, there are no boxes to hide in this time."? The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show - Live! is at the Empire on June 18-19.


STAGE DOOR: Roger McGough will be the voice of the book when The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Live! comes to the Empire Picture: GAVIN TRAFFORD
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 4, 2012
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