The War of the Worlds – The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham

Writer: Tin Robot

Director: Adam Carver

Reviewer: Nicole Craft

The War of the Worlds, regardless of whether referencing H.G Wells’ novel or Jeff Wayne’s musical adaption, has worldwide fame and a huge fan base; so any attempt to try and adapt it needs to be well thought out and, in simple terms, good.

Tin Robot’s attempt at this takes on a new focus on that of those left behind and sees Pearson (Touwa Craig Dunn), who has shut himself away in his bunker, frantically searching online for news of his astronomer wife Sam who had gone to see the close passing of Mars at Horsell Common. As events unfold above him, a telephone conversation with somebody claiming to be there provides narration of sorts and the reality of the situation gradually dawns on him.

As we take our seats for the performance, we are instructed to put on a pair of wireless headphones which will provide the soundscape for the duration. Expecting something impressive, it is soon realised that these are completely superfluous to the experience and, particularly given the intimate nature of the staging, all effects could have been achieved via an ordinary sound system. Presumably intending to provide a more immersive experience, the audio mostly lacks any impact and feels a little like a 90s computer game throughout and the headphones themselves are uncomfortable after a relatively short period.

The lighting doesn’t help Tin Robot’s case for a good show either and is provided by a series of desk lamps. It adds to the atmospheric intentions but the positioning is ill-thought out and left many leaning to hide behind the person in front or closing their eyes to avoid being blinded.

The rest is really up to Dunn, but there is too much of a mountain to climb for him to really rescue it. We do warm to him towards the end and he captures the urgency of Pearson’s emotions well at times, but his conversation just isn’t natural enough to be convincing – not helped by the second party – and the lack of much in the way of action or scene-setting renders us actually having to be in the theatre in the first place somewhat void.

Tin Robot’s intentions are clear here, and a promising concept is enough to intrigue, they just don’t quite deliver and instead the production leaves us somewhat baffled, with unanswered questions and far too much afterthought trying to figure it all out.

Runs until 27 October 2018 | Image: Layne Cooper

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