★★★ The War Of The Worlds | The well known battle between Victorian England and the Martians plays out on stage with a musical mix of contemporary dance, theatre and screen images with Jeff Wayne conducting centre stage.
CREDIT: ©Tristram Kenton
I would hope by now everyone knows the story of The War of the Worlds, originally written by H.G Wells, and I’m sure some of you know of Jeff Wayne’s musical version, if not the entire piece, at least some of the music. If you don’t know the story then here is a very brief summary. Martians attack Victorian England, they appear to be unstoppable, and a journalist narrates the story from the moment they arrive until the very end. What could be simpler?
On stage we are welcomed by a string orchestra and a rock band who, none stop, belt out the well known music including ‘The Eve of War’ and ‘Forever Autumn’, all conducted by Jeff Wayne himself. Just seeing that was good enough. Yet around him the scenes of the war are played out with a star studded cast. Jimmy Nail, Daniel Bedingfield, Heidi Range, Michael Pread (The Sound of Music), Madeleine Alberto (Evita) and finally David Essex. If that wasn’t enough there is more, Liam Neeson narrates throughout either on screen or hologram, yes I’m afraid he isn’t actually there, but that doesn’t detract from his atmospheric, passion filled observations of the scenes being played out before us as the audience.
If all that wasn’t enough there is, and I have to admit to being slightly excited by seeing it, a full size Martian fighting machine complete with heat ray, smoke and a stage alight with flames. It certainly made for some spectacular staging, alongside the music, was great to watch.
Then there were the screens, showing a mix of old Victorian England footage and modern video graphics to depict parts of the story being played out. Together all this had the makings of a great show and, for the most part, it was.
However, it didn’t quite build up enough drama and atmosphere to be truly terrifying, jumpy and drama filled that a war of the worlds should be. It is actually quite hard to put my finger on it, the singing was good, the interpretation and scenes were good but I never felt the ‘drama’ as the Martians arrived, or even when they attacked, it just lacked that bit of ‘on the edge of your seat’ viewing.
Having said that, just watching it all play out in front of you, with all the theatrics and Jeff Wayne’s music filling the theatre was good enough. I certainly had a great time and I don’t think there was a single person who didn’t leave humming one tune or another.
Booking now until 30th April at The Dominion Theatre, 268-269 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1T 7AQ