Darth Vader cut down to size for stage debut

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The Independent Culture

Promising the "lamest special effects in the galaxy", three self-confessed Star Wars nerds will set about compressing George Lucas's epic six-part battle of good against evil into 15 minutes of live theatre.

Star Wars - Shortened! is the brainchild of Adam Long, co-creator of the West End's longest running comedy, the similarly truncated Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) in which the Bard's canon is cut down to 97 minutes.

The trick, Long explained, was in sticking to the essential points. "The story is about an intergalactic dysfunctional family," he said. "Darth Vader is a troubled individual who has children - Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. He goes bad, his children turn against him and turn him back to the good again. The Ewoks, the battles and the rest are extraneous."

However, the show, which will premier before a specially invited audience at the Criterion Theatre on 17 August, will include all the favourite moments.

Among them will be Anakin Skywalker's switch to the Dark Side and Princess Leia's rescue from the clutches of the Empire.

Reducing 13 hours of some of the most visually stunning moments in cinematic history was not without its problems. But the three-man cast is confident fans will not be disappointed. It will recreate the characters with the help of regular household items - an old bathrobe for Obi-Wan Kenobi's famous cloak - and the internet auction site eBay. The producers have been able to source a genuine Darth Vader mask and some light sabres.

The production could only go ahead with the agreement of the Star Wars creator George Lucas. Producers are waiting for the Hollywood legend to agree to the final-version script, although they are confident he is unlikely to raise any objections, having liked the first two drafts.

The performance will be shown as part of Sky Movies' Star Wars season, beginning on 26 August, but Long said he hoped the production would be extended beyond its initial one-night run. He wants to retain the same qualities that made the abridged Shakespeare show such a success. "At heart it was about three Californians trying to get to grips with the genius of Shakespeare," he said.

Sophie Turner-Laing, deputy managing director of Sky channels and services said: "Star Wars is adored by movie fans and what better way to celebrate the first time that the entire saga has ever appeared on British television than to create a theatrical performance, packed with everyone's favourite scenes."