The Time Machine – Theatre Review

THE TIME Machine, a loose retelling of HG Wells’ time travel classic, is more than theatre. It’s also a splendid opportunity to spend an hour and half wandering through the various rooms of The London Library, close to Piccadilly Circus. A magnificent experience.

Bibliophiles will love it as you wander past thousands of books – everything from AC Hollis’s The Nandi to (1909) to HG Wells’ The Invisible Man (1897). It’s a fascinating building that a host of writers – from Dickens to Wells and Ishiguro – have used to create their works of magic. Words ooze from every nook and cranny. The aroma of the written word lingers in the air like a smoking double espresso.

Produced by the innovative Creation Theatre who also used The London Library last year to stage Dracula (see review), The Time Machine has the travelling audience going back and forward in time. It’s a pretty grim future that is painted, made all the more believable by the current Coronavirus pandemic. While the world is in literal meltdown,  the super-rich, we are told, live in New Zealand. Meat is  produced so that livestock feels no pain. Artificial intelligence leaves most people in no more than a vegetative state.

Led by an illegal Time Traveller (Leda Douglas) through the rabbit warren of rooms, we sit at desks, plunge down onto bean bags and squeeze between rows of books. We are introduced to a  computer (Graeme Rose), the director of research scepticism and innovation (Sarah Edwardson), and a TV chat host (Funlola Olufunwa). As we wander through the building we are constantly told to look out for Morlocks (humanoid species). At one stage, we enter a room housing more than 200 years of The Times (printed, not online).

‘The Time Machine’

The constant shuffling between rooms breaks up the play’s flow, but it asks searching questions of the audience. Would it be right to change the past – via a time machine – if it meant a better future?

Are we heading for global catastrophe where certain parts of the planet (the equator for example) will become inhabitable? (I think we know the answer to that).

Will the world  become even more polarised than it is today? Will artificial intelligence and genome engineering be forces for good or evil?

Thoughtful theatre from Jonathan Holloway who adapted HG Wells’ great work  – and clever direction from Natasha Rickman. With some super costumes from Ryan Dawson Laight and effective sound from Jonny Keeley, The Time Machine is both immersive and timely.

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