AdaptationDramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

The Time Machine – Washington Arts Centre

Writer: Elton Townend-Jones

Director: Elton Townend-Jones

Producer: Rebecca Vaughan

Reviewer: Anna Ambelez

It’s often said that less is more, that simple is best, and so is the set for Dyad Production’s The Time Machine. Extremely minimalist, with the minimum of props. The overload comes from the text as a constant rush of words flood the stage. The audience are verbally attacked from the opening scene. Stephen Cunningham delivers this monologue with piercing exuberance, completely absorbed by the character he portrays. The speedy and constant delivery of text made it feel as though the actor was concerned with not getting through it all in the 90-minute production.

Using a simple pocket watch to denote his ’travel machine’ you are taken far into the future, where the Eloi, the good and fair inhabit the upper ground and the frightening Morlocks live deep underground; the eternal presentation, light is good, dark is bad.

Cunningham, obviously an experienced able actor has a good, clear, voice; a pity the quick delivery often hampered hearing the words. The intense content could even be delivered in two halves of 50 and 40 minutes, thereby giving the audience a chance to breathe and absorb what they have heard. The regular periods of darkness, when encountering the Morlocks made concentration even harder. Good use was made of the simple set when lit (lighting designed by Martin Tucker) to cast menacing shadows towering over Cunningham on the white backdrop behind, more such use would enrich the visual effect.

While Cunningham often laughs nervously or excitedly, the piece is devoid of any humour to relieve its intensity. While this is a serious piece and not a comedy, there is generally humour to be found in the darkest moments, which provides much-needed relief.

His costume, (designed by Kate Flanaghan) is timeless, a simple brown waistcoat and matching trousers with a plain shirt, is at home today as much as it would have been in 1900.

1960 saw the science fiction film The Time Machine being released, bringing the story to a wider public audience. Indeed, Wells’ story was very influential in the development of science fiction. Townend-Jones and Rebecca Vaughan, founding members of the company aim to ‘produce innovative, yet classic, theatre with a contemporary relevance’, such as Jane Eyre: An autobiography and Austin’s Women. While based on the 1895 novella by HG Wells The Time Machine, this radical interpretation stays close to the original, while bringing modern day folly into the spotlight. This piece is a warning to humanity, our future is truly in our hands, as Cunningham says, ‘Welcome to your future’, a somewhat bleak thought as it appears to lack any compassion.

Reviewed on 11th April.

Final performance on 13th April | Image: Contributed

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