Tag Archives: HG Wells

“The Time Machine” at The London Library

Inspired by the HG Wells novel, this immersive show has the huge benefit of being staged in The London Library. Playwright Jonathan Holloway’s new story unfolds in the gorgeous reading rooms and wonderful bookstacks. Admittedly, it’s a slight on the show that its main attraction is a bibliophile’s dream locale, but director Natasha Rickman and her team at Creation Theatre really do showcase the building magnificently.

Small groups are led around by an individual time traveller and mine – performed by Paul (PK) Taylor – was excellent, being good at engaging those who wanted interaction and leaving alone those who did not. Injecting a sense of urgency, even spookiness, he even managed to cover up a technical hitch for a good while. Joined for a couple of scenes by Graeme Rose as a computer who reminded me of a Gilbert and George artwork, the two did well with an anarchic streak that is the best of Holloway’s script.

The Time Machine at The London Library
Graeme Rose

There’s a cheeky humour to the show that I felt growing on me. With the idea that things are being changed constantly – including our socks – by illegal time travellers, there are plenty of smart lines. Playing with the past, especially with famous authors, should appeal to the audience, while claiming that the first instance of time travel was in New York nightclub Studio 54 (and playing Donna Summer in the library) is a great idea. It’s a shame it all gets more serious.

The Time Machine has a lot of important things to say. Wells would no doubt approve. But doom and gloom about the future mean this machine stalls. A “torrent of information” we’re exposed to is delivered well and bite-sized gobbets of science and philosophy are digestible enough. But too many scenarios of Armageddon arrive – each a cliché and fuelled, you guessed it, by conspiracies. Maybe we just don’t need more talk of epidemics right now but, rather than feeling topical, the show feels tired.

The Time Machine at The London Library
Funlola Olufunwa

Taylor keeps up the energy (joined by Sarah Edwardson and Funlola Olufunwa with two underwritten roles that they try hard with), and there’s a real effort to introduce passion and urgency. But a lot of what’s said becomes silly and the show’s originality evaporates. When it comes to imagining the future, this feels like old news. The only safe prediction should be an increase in membership for The London Library.

Until 5 April 2020

Photos by Richard Budd


“The War of the Worlds” at the New Diorama Theatre

Rhum & Clay’s clever new show isn’t based on the titular novel by HG Wells. And it only takes the famous 1938 broadcast by Orson Welles as a starting point. Instead, the show is a stellar theatrical adventure about fact and fiction. A parallel is drawn between the radio play that caused chaos by presenting itself as live reportage, and fake news in the present, exploring both with wit and intelligence.

This is a devised piece, written by Isley Lynn, but stressed as a collaboration, and a high percentage of the ideas work well. There may be a superfluous incidental character or two, maybe even a scene? But the show coalesces well and keeps an audience guessing. As the focus moves from a microphone to a radio and then a recorder for a podcast, interest increases. Throughout, Benjamin Grant’s sound design, which plays such a key role, is commendable.

All four cast members, including Rhum & Clay originators Matthew Wells and Julian Spooner, play to their strengths and impress. Everyone puts in a good turn as Orson Welles, performers of his show and terrified members of the public. But it’s the play’s female characters that stand out: Amalia Vitale and Mona Goodwin do a superb job in their central roles as Lawson and Meena, who encounter one another just before Donald Trump’s election as the latter makes a podcast about a family history that started on the night of that panic- inducing broadcast.

It’s the reactions to Welles’ show that interest this talented team. Reports of hysteria are well known – but are they an urban myth? And what are their contemporary parallels? Enter Trump. With our modern-day journalist travelling to America, and the small town Welles that based his broadcast around, the show gets really smart. It would be easy to identify with Meena, but care is taken to show she is too fond of clichés – Goodwin is excellent here – and she stoops to cheating to get her copy. It’s a brilliant move adding credibility, as Rhum & Clay play with alienating their audience a little! That we end up suspicious of everyone here is healthy. But, trust me, it’s no fake news to say that you should see this show.

Until 9 February 2019


Photo by Richard Davenport