DramaNorth WestReview

The War of the Worlds – Liverpool Everyman

Reviewer: Abbie Rippon

Writer: H.G. Wells

Adapter: Isley Lynn

Director: Hamish MacDougal and Julian Spooner

In 1938, Orson Welles’ radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds shook America. With most of the population getting their news by radio, and the world on the brink of the Second World War, Welles’ realistic and thrilling drama caused shockwaves as listeners tuned into what they believed to be a real-life alien invasion.

‘What stories do we choose to believe,and why? In the darkest of times, the truth is a very precious commodity…’

Writer Isley Lynn merges Welles’ radio drama with the 2016 hype of the American general election, Trump promising to build his wall and ban Muslim communities in reaction to threats of terrorism. The world is once more on edge, but the way in which we consume our media has changed, and Lynn cleverly parallels the mass hysteria caused by a radio broadcast in 1938, to our consumption of internet click-bait and the irrational reactions to this fake media.

We all know the term ‘Fake News’, but do we always fact-check every article we read? Lynn’s challenging and thought-provoking writing highlights that even though fake news doesn’t cause people to flee their homes in fear of an alien attack, as Welles’ radio show did; in the twenty-first century, its impact is even more dangerous.

 

Rhum and Clay Theatre Company’s production is provocative and captivating in both its writing and its performance qualities. The small ensemble of actors consisting of Gina Isaac, Jess Mabel Jones, Julian Spooner and Matt Wells perform multiple characters with swiftness and skills. Their ensemble interpretation of Orson Wells, pipe and all, is enchanting. They highlight anecdotes from the 1938 broadcast with humour and explore the 2016 reaction to the fake media with frankness and honesty. Writer Lynn approaches this topic with an unexpected sensitivity, examining the more personal impact of fake news on one American family, and the ensemble tells this story sensitively but truthfully.

In a story with so much going on, so many characters and settings, this production could so easily become messy and hard to follow, but under Hamaish MacDougal and Julian Spooner’s direction, this performance is slick, clean, engaging and the storytelling is nothing short of excellent.

Movement director and performer Matt Wells has worked with the cast to produce moments of genuine physical humour and movement sequences that are not only creative and artistically sound in their own right but work in perfect harmony to the writing and storytelling. Everything in this production is so in sync. The sound, lighting and video production are beautifully designed creating the many necessary atmospheres in this shapeshifting play, and it is superb to see a show where each production element has an equally high level of importance in the narrative of the piece as the performance and writing. Credits must be given to lighting designers Nick Flintoff and Pete Maxey, sound designer Benjamin Grant and video designer Ian Syme. The technology doesn’t merely support the production, it is essential to the rendering.

Having not known what to expect when sitting down to this production, Rhum and Clay take the audience in the Everyman on a journey that is so much more than just a piece of entertainment.  This show prompts conversation, promotes discussion, and like any good piece of didactic theatre, might cause a few ripples in the audience that could, eventually, turn into waves.

Runs until 23rd October 2021 and continues it UK Tour

The Reviews Hub Score

Timely

The Reviews Hub - North West

The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. 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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