“This is the story of the fourth dimension: time”.
And so begins The Time Machine – a music-filled, narratively unique adventure that breathes new life into H.G. Wells’ classic novel of the same name. In this show, Carrie [played by Lindsay Sharman] – a producer at a Woking radio station – invites a clear-voiced presenter [Laurence Owen] to record a musical retelling of one scientist’s experience with time travel.
The Time Machine’s structural inventiveness deserves high praise: the show presents to the audience a story within a story, carrying it off cleverly through the medium of song. Into the broadcast microphone, the radio presenter narrates (and sings) the story of the aforementioned scientist as he informs his dinner guests that he recently travelled 800,000 years into the future. The dinner guests are, understandably, incredulous – and this is conveyed through witty song lyrics. In a feat of vocal creativity, Owen even nimbly switches accents while he’s singing to effectively set each character apart.
In between the songs, the content of Wells’ novel is relayed into the broadcast mic, giving us more detail about the peculiar world the scientist found upon exiting his time machine. The storytelling here is engaging and appropriately suspenseful, largely thanks to Owen’s aptitude for pacing.
Adding another interesting – not to mention hilarious – dimension to The Time Machine are the ad breaks that crop up during the “radio recording” (the advert for cigarettes is a particularly giggle-worthy reminder that commercial advertising in the 1950s tended towards the ridiculous). The best comedic moments, though, come when Carrie tries to make authentic radio sound effects via some decidedly unorthodox means – which I won’t spoil for you here.
The Time Machine is a prime example of innovative storytelling. The musical numbers are deliciously amusing, while the spoken narrative is designed to captivate the audience and keep them on their toes. Both performers demonstrate strong acting ability, and Sharman in particular knows how to earn laughs from a crowd. This is an intriguing adaptation of a beloved science-fiction novel you won’t want to miss.
Words: Morgan Laing
Picture: Steve Ullathorne
The Time Machine, Voodoo Rooms, Aug 20-27, 1.45pm