Hilarious hijinks and peculiar paradoxes
In 1895 H G Wells published The Time Machine, a novel that first popularised the now well-trodden tale of travelling through time on board a vehicle, but now his supposed great, great grandson Dave is determined to prove the novel was no work of fiction and instead a true story of marvellous exploration. Aided by his somewhat willing colleagues, we are promised to have our minds blown by undeniable proof that H G Wells did travel in time, but predictably things don’t quite go to plan. Utter chaos paired with infectious hilarity all bundled into a play that brims with unexpected twists and turns makes this a proper good farce.
It's hard to know if Dave cares more about demonstrating his great-great grandfather's time-travelling ability or the script he has worked so hard to write. So caught up in his desperation to see it performed in full, he is willing to stop at near nothing to see it staged - at the cost of his poor costar’s sanity. As Dave, Dave Hearn draws on his Goes Wrong and Mischief Theatre experience in harnessing the bumbling energy and delivers a standout slapstick performance that is both delightfully childish and oh so charismatic. By act two, where the proverbial sh*t hits the fan, he evolves into an almost Doctor Who-like figure, aware of everything that is about to happen and armed with a half-arsed plan to remedy the collapsing situation. Hearn’s signature and effortless showmanship is wonderful to witness, the puckish glint in his eye promising us that silliness lies ahead.
Amy Revelle and Michael Dylan (both playing characters with the same names) join Hearn in forming this unlikely ensemble. Cher obsessed Amy, is begrudgingly complicit as long as she is allowed to perform multiple songs from Cher’s extensive catalogue - which she does in remarkable form whereas Michael is a little more obsessive over the detail in carefully explaining the various paradoxes that can occur if a person is to meddle with time. They each bring spectacular comedic timing to the production, the humour reverberating between them as spectacular quips and one-liners are fired with ultimate precision. In the second half, as madness descends and the gang tries to solve the seemingly inevitable tragedy before them the play deviates in the most unexpected and hysterical ways that ensures act two is a non-stop rollercoaster of brilliant buffoonery. There is scope too for plenty of wonderful audience work as we are not just passengers brought along for the ride. The cast and script quietly tear down the fourth wall between us, cleverly blurring the line between performance and reality - an impressive and challenging feat to appear so natural.
Writers Steven Canny and John Nicholson have crafted a rib-tickling play with impressive legs that has found another little niche in the farce landscape. Understatedly clever but overflowing with humour that delights and dazzles, this is a show that combats the gloomy nights and will have you chuckling long after it has finished. Wish I could hop in a time machine to experience it for the first time once again.
Running until 30th December - Tickets
Photography - Manuel Harlan