Music: Greg Hall
Director: James Williams
Reviewer: Jacqui Onions
Predating H. G. Wells’ novel, The Time Machine, great great grandfather to Jem and Aidan Treays, Enrique Gaspar, wrote El Anacronopete in which he invented the very first time machine. Inspired by this, the brothers have created a fun and lively look at time travel and family history through contemporary dance that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
As an introduction for children to contemporary dance, Run Ragged Productions’ one-act piece, The First Time Machine, has a lot going for it. With the current popularity of science fiction, especially Doctor Who, time travel is a subject matter that the whole family can enjoy together. Jem Treays draws this family audience in from the outset, greeting everyone that walks into the auditorium as a member of the local time travel society, while Greg Hall plucks atmospheric melodies on the guitar.
The choreography is interesting and engaging, and performed skilfully by Jem and Aidan Treays – the dance symbolising them firing up the time machine for the first time and travel back through the eras is a highlight. However, the real stand out moment of the show is a stunning piece of projection, thanks to John Collingswood, where Jem Treays’ daughter, Ella, appears and dances in the lid of an open suitcase while her father interacts with her – truly magical.
The dance is interspersed with narrative and plenty of humour, making the show easy to follow, and both Jem and Aidan Treays are very natural in their interactions with the audience, drawing everyone into their crazy world. It is a shame then that this narrative does not seem to quite know what it wants to be. The basic premise is that the audience have been invited to a rehearsal of a show that the brothers are creating inspired by their great great grandfather’s book, but this does not quite fit with us all being members of a time travel society. Add to this the occasional jump from one story or era to the next without explanation and moments where it is unclear whether we are to believe that we are watching a rehearsal for a show or the brothers really trying to travel back in time to meet their ancestor and things get a little confusing.
The set, cleverly designed by Saz Moir, provides plenty of interesting objects, costumes and levels for Jem and Aidan Treays to incorporate into their dancing. It has a predominantly old-fashioned feel, containing some items that actually belonged to Enrique Gaspar, but with the odd modern item appearing to symbolise the present day.
This high energy, fun-filled performance falls a little flat at the end as we finally get to meet great great grandfather Enrique Gaspar. The pace and volume drop right down and, instead of creating a magical moment with the intriguing use of puppetry, it becomes a little creepy for the younger members of the audience.
Overall, an enjoyable piece of theatre that has the potential to be something truly brilliant and inspiring.
On tour until 8th February 2014.