Friday, 18 July 2014

The Time Machine at Derby Guildhall. Review

The Time Machine written by H.G. Wells has been adapted for a solo performer on the stage by Robert Lloyd Parry and is a gripping piece of solo theatre right from the very start and a masterful verbal and physical performance by Parry throughout. He and his time machine have crashed into a garden of a villa late one evening in suburban Richmond 1895. Crazed and almost disbelieving his own adventures he tells of his journey into the future and back. It is a spellbinding affair.

After frantically tumbling out of an upturned box (the time machine) he falls headlong towards the audience whilst babbling out descriptions dressed in his grubby long johns. As he calms he talks of the far ahead future- strange tribes, the light fearing, brutish and cannibalistic Morlocks and their life of continual labour underground and the Eloi – a small, elegant, childlike society of adults that enjoy a privileged life but lack any kind of curiosity. Because they have no need to to work they have become complacent, even towards death. This bearded and eccentric time traveller has little sympathy for both tribes but his story is not without welcome touches of humour and he theorizes throughout over the nature of this distant humanity. His monologues are often beautiful and meandering and because of this 'adapted from the novel' approach I would say the show is more geared towards an adult audience. Saying that some older teens in the audience seemed enraptured.

The actor Robert Lloyd Parry is completely compelling in his ability to engage, entertain and even slightly unnerve the Derby audience. This is the strength of Parry's storytelling in that it fires the imagination and you have the uncanny feeling that he is telling a very strange story that is completely unique to the evening. At times it also seems like there is more than one person on the stage – a testament to his tour de force acting skills.

The Time Machine itself is wittily described as being smaller on the inside and it adds a charmingly eccentric note to the staging. Throughout the story it also doubles as a clever place from which the actor gets props for the show but we do not get to see the full design until quite late in the piece. It also becomes a sinister building and strangely believable as a hill the time traveller climbs. The brilliant design is by Factory Settings Ltd. Simple lighting conveys perfectly various atmospheres including a blazing fire, caves and sunny meadows.

Ashley Summers ingenious sound arrangement uses continuously chiming clocks to suggest the events of time travel and the audience were clearly spooked with eerie noises suggesting the coming of the terrifying Morlocks. The piece makes good use of other atmospheric sound effects such as a church clock chiming midnight over and over, birds and crickets chirping and electronic music producing futuristic effects.

All in all this touring production is a gripping piece of one man theatre and it was wonderful to hear some teenagers leave the theatre saying “That was ace! Better than Dr Who!”

The Time Machine is a Nunkie Theatre Company production in development with The Lowry and Harrogate Theatre.

Originally written for on 17th July 2014 

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