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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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The Rink – 4 Stars


The Rink

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 29th May 2018


“The action switches from past to present with alarming frequency but Adam Lenson’s polished direction never leaves us in any doubt as to where we are”


We’ve all had that moment, when having to pack up a room or leave a house; and each possession, as it gets boxed up, can transport us back in time. What should be a straightforward task becomes an extended stroll down memory lane. We know we are squandering hours that could be put to better use, but still relishing every moment. Kander and Ebb’s musical “The Rink” takes this as its central theme and has a similar effect: you feel as though you should be doing something more important yet, within minutes, you are absorbed and let yourself be swept along by the Proustian reminiscences of the lead characters.

Anna is the owner of a dilapidated roller skating rink on the boardwalk of a decaying seaside resort, who has decided to sell it to developers. Her plans are complicated when her estranged daughter, Angel, returns home after a seven-year absence seeking to reconnect with the people and places she left behind and to patch things up with her mother. Through a series of flashbacks and revelations, the two of them deal with their pasts in their attempt to reconcile and move on with their lives. The action switches from past to present with alarming frequency but Adam Lenson’s polished direction never leaves us in any doubt as to where we are.

There is a nod to Sondheim’s “Follies”, though with less depth. Terrence McNally’s book is a somewhat slim affair and so the onus needs to ride on Kander and Ebb’s score and the performances. Caroline O’Connor’s Anna (pronounced ‘Honour’, deliberately or not, in this version with the slightly overdone accents) is a powerhouse of a performance, slipping seamlessly from her acerbic dialogue into stirring song. Gemma Sutton is the perfect foil as the prodigal, rebellious daughter and, as her character’s name suggests, has the voice of an angel.

They both possess the wit and comic timing required for the roles, which is matched by the strong support of the male ensemble. Stewart Clarke is in remarkably fine voice as the wayward, absent husband and father figure, and Ross Dawes as the ‘voice-of-conscience’ grandfather is quite compelling – not to mention his show stopping moves on roller skates. The close-knit cast make Fabian Aloise’s innovative choreography seem easy. Accompanied by a seven-piece band (though sounding like a much fuller orchestra) they skate, dance, laugh, cry and sing through the magnificent, yet seldom revived score. Like the abandoned rink of the title, it has been neglected for too long and this return to the stage is a welcome reminder of Kander and Ebb’s magic.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Darren Bell


The Rink

Southwark Playhouse until 23rd June


Also by Kander & Ebb
Chicago | ★★★★ | Phoenix Theatre | April 2018



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