Katie Underhay brings the Worlocks and the Eloi together in The Time Machine

The Time Machine. Rudry Parish Hall, Cymru.

In a very 21st century village hall in South Wales Katie Underhay and Anthony Burbridge of Mumblecrust Theatre in Axbridge took a packed audience into the year AD 800,000 and something.

Staged in Rudry Parish Hall, the intrepid duo performed a family friendly dramatized version of the 1895 novel The Time Machine by HG Wells.

It’s a disturbing dystopian future in which the gentle Eloi people are preyed upon by the menacing Morlocks in a world that is sliding towards Doomsday. It was the Victorian author’s warning of where evolution and the future of earth could be heading in his seminal science fiction narrative. Although in this version you won’t have nightmares as the narrative was gentle and humorous.

Using basic props and a steam-punk inspired design for the Time Traveller’s century shrinking contraption the story was told in song, puppetry and drama.

The strength of the show was the youthful energy and singing of Katie Underhay in particular along with the puppets depicting the futuristic Eloi and the Morlocks which related well with the young audience. The actors’ voices were clear, beautiful and contemporary taking the story telling to another dimension of musical theatre. Strong harmonies helped to make this production more than a basic storytelling.

With great energy the couple gave committed performances – she as enthusiastic storyteller and he as the slightly pompous Victorian gent convinced he had created ‘the very latest thing.’ His other inventions such as the car and the telephone having all been taken to market by more accomplished entrepreneurs according to the 7ft tall Filby operated with a comic voice by Katie. This aspect was the part of the drama that most captured the young audience as puppets or manikins ingeniously appeared from behind drapes and props with their own voices and personalities.

The audience were transfixed by the action, but the very complexity of the story was a little lost with its themes of evolutionary decay, a send up of Victorian values and a critique of attitudes of the British Empire in the fin de siècle era. Could it have been a little darker as per the intent of the novel – probably. Children embrace the dark side all to enthusiastically and HG Wells’ novel was a warning of where humanity may end – born as it was in a time of class division, of child factory workers and an elite whose lives were far removed from the every day.

A brave and creative re-imagining of a story, which still resonates today with its ideas of time travel and future prophesies – that are now mainstream in the genre of science fiction.

Harry Mottram

The play transfers to The Lyric Theatre in Bridport on November 2, 2019.

For details visit https://www.mumblecrust.com/

For more reviews, news and views on theatre and much else visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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