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  • Writer's picturePaul Gainey

The Time Machine, Theatre Royal Bath

HG Wells’s classic sci-fi novel, The Time Machine, is reimagined in a new stage adaptation at the Theatre Royal in Bath.

In this fast-paced and wise-cracking retelling of the world-famous novel audiences should expect the most surprising and unforeseen consequences as the cast go on a rollercoaster journey through time to a world thousands of centuries into the future.

In The Time Machine, H G Wells propels readers into the year 802701 to a world riven by class conflict, as he comments on the increasing inequality and class divisions of his own era.

He projects society as comprising of two separate human species: the fair, childlike Eloi, and the savage, simian Morlocks, distant descendants of contemporary upper and lower classes respectively.

But instead of exploring these themes, Steven Canny and John Nicholson’s script draws on the 1895 novella to explore the logic and paradoxes of time travel.

The play is structured around the over-familiar concept of actors putting on a shambolic play within the play, bolstered by out-of-sync lines, over the top acting and innuendo.

Canny and Bristol-based Nicholson make H G Wells himself a time-traveller, and their script contains songs by Cher and topical jokes about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan.

Although the four-strong cast do their best, the comedy runs out of steam after the interval. It all goes downhill as the production runs out of ideas.

The audience arrives in 802701 to a world of catastrophe and conflict but this is short lived and the rest of the piece relies on gags, audience participation and random music which provide moments of excellent comedy, but the early promise soon fizzles out.

The sterling cast of Dave Hearn, best known for his work with Mischief, Amy Revelle and Michael Dylan work hard with the material directed by Orla O’Loughlin are essentially let down by the repetitive structure and totally abstract Act 2.

Whilst it is without question good fun and skilfully performed, the random mash-up dance feels more like a time filler and as it tumbles to its conclusion it feels that perhaps it would be more at home in an intimate venue as a one-act piece.

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