Tag Archives: Nick Finlow

The Time Traveller's Wife

The Time Traveller’s Wife

★★★

Apollo Theatre

THE TIME TRAVELLER’S WIFE at the Apollo Theatre

★★★

The Time Traveller's Wife

“the show is a feast for the eyes with plenty of jaw-dropping, ‘how-do-they-do-that’ moments”

As a species, the ability to conquer the fourth dimension has always fascinated us. Which is why it is so prevalent in literature and popular culture. Particularly as this year comes to an end with the highly anticipated 60th anniversary of Dr Who on the horizon. It is argued that Sophocles wrote the first time travel story over 2,500 years ago. The popularity of the concept has almost convinced us that time travel could, in fact, be possible. Most fantasies revolve around our ability to control our passage through time – from the past or to the future and back again. Audrey Niffenegger’s novel, “The Time Traveller’s Wife”, turned that around to tell the story of a man who has no control. It is not a gift but a curse, and questions of free will, fatalism or predeterminism give the novel a philosophical sheen. The success of the story, however, stemmed from the fact that it was perceived as a love story.

It is this aspect that informs the new musical, which premiered at Storyhouse, Chester last year before its West End run. Lauren Gunderson’s book, with Dave Stewart and Joss Stone’s music and lyrics, is a sugar-coated treat. More saccharin than the real deal raw stuff, there is a synthetic quality to the way it pulls at our heart strings. But once we get used to it, we allow ourselves to be drawn into the narrative. What undoubtedly helps is Bill Buckhurst’s magnificent staging. A collaborative effort, drawing on the skills of illusionist Chris Fisher, the show is a feast for the eyes with plenty of jaw-dropping, ‘how-do-they-do-that’ moments.

“Despite the captivating themes, the episodic nature of the piece leaves them dangling”

At the heart of the story are Henry and Clare – the time traveller and his wife (David Hunter and Joanna Woodward). Henry is a man with a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel unpredictably while his wife, Clare, is left behind to cope with his frequent absences. It is fitting that Woodward opens the show, introducing herself directly to the audience. After all; it’s in the title. Refreshingly told from the wife’s perspective, Woodward empowers her character in a finely balanced performance, practically stealing the show with the highlight musical number, ‘I’m In Control’. It is a rare moment when the emotional temperature lifts a few degrees. Elsewhere, however, the score laps around us in lukewarm waves of predictability.

The narrative is surprisingly easy to follow, given the complex nature of the storyline. Especially when put on paper. Henry and Clare first meet in the library where Henry works part time. Clare has already met Henry several times throughout her life when Henry was older and travelling back in time to visit her. But because Henry is younger than that now, he hasn’t yet built the memories of this, so he has no idea who Clare is. See what I mean? Henry has unwritten ‘rules’ of time travel that he can’t break. But of course, he does – particularly when it is in order to save his marriage. Woodward and Hunter both give polished performances that clearly pinpoint where, and when, we are in their romance. Fantastic support comes from Tim Mahendran and Hiba Elchikhe, as Gomez and Charisse, their best friends and conventional couple who mirror the ups and downs of matrimony without the added complications. Special mention must be made of Holly-Jade Roberts, who plays the young Clare with a fascinating, quirky and natural assuredness beyond her years.

Despite the captivating themes, the episodic nature of the piece leaves them dangling. Yet we also appreciate that this may be an essential part of it, as normal life is continually being torn apart by these uncontrolled fissures in time. And the numerous scene transitions are almost another character in itself. But the questions never dig too deep, hindered as they are by lyrical platitudes such as ‘time is nothing’. Perhaps there is too much to explore and, despite running at just over two and a half hours, there isn’t the time. We leave with a sense of being slightly underwhelmed, but thoroughly entertained, nonetheless. The question remains; will it stand the test of time? Well, there’s only one answer. Only time will tell.


THE TIME TRAVELLER’S WIFE at the Apollo Theatre

Reviewed on 2nd November 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Johan Persson

 

 

 

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:

Potted Panto | ★★★★★ | December 2022
Cruise | ★★★★★ | August 2022

The Time Traveller’s Wife

The Time Traveller’s Wife

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Back to the Future

Back to the Future

★★★★

Adelphi Theatre

Back to the Future

Back to the Future

Adelphi Theatre

Reviewed – 6th October 2021

★★★★

 

“It is sleek, well-oiled and will surely be burning bright for quite some time”

 

Even with the help of a 1.21 gigawatts flux capacitor and an unhealthy dose of radioactive plutonium, 88 mph seems a pretty modest speed required to propel a rear-engine ‘DeLorean’ through time. But this piece of eighties iconography has no trouble landing on the stage of the Adelphi Theatre in the twenty-first century, swept along by the sheer force of a gravity-defying publicity machine and the collective, kick-starting power of a couple of thousand fans a night, adding to the lightning bolts of energy that burst throughout the auditorium. To say “Back to the Future: The Musical” is spectacular is an understatement. It showers us with special effects, jaw-dropping sets and transitions, blurs of neon, CGI magic and a hi-wattage, fifties/eighties mash up of a soundtrack. It is sleek, well-oiled and will surely be burning bright for quite some time.

But listen closely and you hear some troublesome knocking in the engine. Not enough to stall it and too quiet to worry the crowd, the flaws are invariably swamped by the energy of the performances. It’s a bizarre adaptation of the film; simultaneously faithful to the original but adding quirks and eccentricities that don’t always sit comfortably with the source material. Doc Brown attracts an ensemble of backing singers and dancers like flies. It’s a lot of fun, is wonderfully appealing to the ears and eyes and it breaks the fourth wall. But you wonder why. The music and lyrics of Alan Silvestri and Glan Ballard are crowd pleasing pastiches, with words and rhymes full of witty observation and humour; but sometimes side-stepping into banality. The almost relentless breaking into song takes away from the narrative and the characterisation; we barely have time to take a breath (so how do the cast cope?) and we miss those moments when we can absorb the concepts of space, time and history that the film allowed us to contemplate.

Yet despite being stripped of at least one dimension of their characters, the cast give impeccable performances. Olly Dobson, as Marty McFly, is a dead ringer for Michael J. Fox and is a fireball of energy. When he arrives back in 1955, the moments when his teenage mother (Rosanna Hyland) has ‘the hots’ for him are played for real laughs. (It is bizarre to note that when the film was originally pitched to Disney, the appalled executives rejected it outright, declaring it to be a movie about incest). More emphasis is placed on Marty’s relationship with his dad, George. Hugh Coles gives one of the stand-out performances; lanky and geeky with angular awkwardness, and often hilarious in the way only a highly skilled mover can re-enact ‘bad dancing’. Roger Bart’s Doc Brown is a contagious concoction of quirks, marred only by his over playing to the audience at times.

The special effects, sets and lighting are as much a lead role as the protagonists. Tim Lutkin’s lighting, Finn Ross’ video design, coupled with Chris Fisher’s illusion design, Gareth Owen’s sound and The Twins FX animatronics cannot fail to produce a breath-taking show. Add on the extra layers of Chris Bailey’s sleek, though sometimes excessive, choreography; and musical director Jim Henson’s thirteen-piece band and you have a display that defies the laws of physics. Like the well-worn bumblebee flight myth (it is a scientific and aerodynamic impossibility that bumblebees can fly – yet fly they do) the unconventional components that make up this vehicle should leave it grounded. It shouldn’t do – but it flies. It soars even. Although not timeless, it will stand the test of time and we’ll still be seeing this show in the West End way back to the future.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Sean Ebsworth Barnes

 


Back to the Future

Adelphi Theatre until July 2022

 

Shows we reviewed in September 2021:
Fever Pitch | ★★★★ | Hope Theatre | September 2021
Myra Dubois: Dead Funny | ★★★★ | Garrick Theatre | September 2021
Absurd Person Singular | ★★★ | Cambridge Arts Theatre | September 2021
White Witch | ★★ | Bloomsbury Theatre | September 2021
Aaron And Julia | ★★½ | The Space | September 2021
Catching Comets | ★★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | September 2021
Ida Rubinstein: The Final Act | ★★ | Playground Theatre | September 2021
Witness For The Prosecution | ★★★★★ | London County Hall | September 2021
Tell me on a Sunday | ★★★ | Cambridge Arts Theatre | September 2021

 

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