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The Time Machine: A Comedy – The Lowry, Salford

Reviewer: Jay Nuttall

Writers: Steven Canny & John Nicholson

Director: Orla O’Loughlin

Original Theatre Company have backed up their highly successful The Hound of the Baskervilles reinvention with another classic novel. This time, after a critically acclaimed London run last year, HG Wells’ The Time Machine – A Comedy gets well and truly shaken up and pieced back together in a three handed whizz through time and space.

George, Amy and Michael, playing fictionalised versions of themselves are to present George’s stage version of HG Wells’ early science fiction classic. After all, being a descendant of the man himself he feels he has some licence to produce it – especially if he owns the Victorian machine itself! The conceit is a play within a play. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg as The Time Machine becomes anything other than a retelling of a classic novel.

With the three actors enjoyably stumbling through an unrehearsed version of George’s adaptation of his great grandfather’s writing the actors fall in and out of character – breaking the fourth wall as Amy and Michael begrudgingly perform at George’s whim. Roles are purposefully blurred but when the time machine actually works and transports George through a fourth dimension things take a rather different turn from a simple retelling.

This is most definitely a show of two halves. All the silliness of the first half is merely a set-up for what happens in the second (or is it first?). With one of the cast member desperate to dodge their own death that we witness at the end of the first act, the second act is an attempt to challenge fate, the laws of quantum physics or just the script of the show itself. Confused? You should be. Steve Canny and John Nicholson’s very clever and highly enjoyable premise is a cross between Michael Frayn’s Noises Off and Everything Everywhere All At Once, Back to the Future or a classic episode of Red Dwarf. Parallel universes, disturbances of the space time continuum and theories containing the linear structure of space-time are thrown into a show about three actors trying to perform a play about time travel.

Canny and Nicholson’s script is funny and clever in equal measure as the play deviates from anything and everything HG Wells and morphs into its own, much more intriguing, complicated web. It becomes meta beyond meta as actors are playing actors playing shows within shows – and with a healthy dose of audience interaction and participation it takes on a another unknown and improvised quality. The show is a lot of fun and requires of excellent comic timing and stamina. Luckily, the cast never once let the energy drop. George Kemp is suitably pompous in his desire mount his production and solve the mysteries of the universe. Amy Revelle revels in her wish to shoe-horn in as many Cher songs onto the stage and point out the patriarchal bent on the storytelling. The comic turn comes delightfully from Michael Dylan who, along for the ride of it all, becomes the fateful victim of time travel as he desperately tries to avoid dying onstage … again!

The Time MachineA comedy is very silly but luckily also very funny. There is work to do in the first half to get on board with its style and premise but it is great groundwork for an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable second half that becomes a casserole of audience interaction, silly wigs, Cher and theoretical physics! If, in Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett wrote a play in which nothing happens twice then this is a play where everything that can possibly happen happens … twice.

Runs until January 27th & Tours until 7th April.

The Reviews Hub Score

Silly and clever

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The Reviews Hub - North West

The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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