The Time Machine: Immersive HG Wells At The London Library
Note: all listings are subject to cancellation at short notice, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Please check with the event website before attending. We'll be aiming to keep our listings approach in line with government advice as the situation evolves.
HG Wells is the absolute daddy of science fiction. If you've enjoyed a story featuring invading aliens, dodgy scientists, medical misadventures or time travel, consider tipping your hat in his direction. Put together by the innovative souls behind Creation Theatre, a new promenade theatre show based on his seminal book The Time Machine is a fantastic way to explore the London Library — a place where HG Wells was a member for over 50 years.
Holding around a million books, the library has grown over the years and is now an evocative mishmash of architecture — something that becomes all the more apparent as we are led from room to room by our anonymous Time Traveller. Writer Jonathan Holloway's story deconstructs the original novel to creative effect and uses a sparse cast and modern technology to explore moral puzzles.
Some of those dilemmas focus on the personal: should technology be used for our own ends if it causes harm to those around us? Wider issues are also raised around the blurry lines between science and money and between science and the law. This latter is deeply ironic considering that our journey takes us through the Sackler Room which, as the name suggests, was sponsored by the family sued for their role in the US's opioid crisis and whose financial sponsorship led to last year's "die-in" protest at the V&A.
In her role as the Time Traveller, Clare Humphrey superbly conveys the conflicts and convictions of her character; if you've ever dreamed of being a Dr Who companion, this may be the closest most of us will get. As explained with the aid of a human computer (played by Graeme Rose), we are now in an alternative timeline where Oliver Hardy gave up the comedy shtick to become a noted physicist and Jean-Paul Gaultier is a computer engineer living in Birmingham.
Not helped by one too many slabs of gooey melodrama, the story doesn't quite gel as well as it could, but Natasha Rickman's direction maintains a jaunty intensity (even if the plot strolls along at an uneven pace). All the while it allows us to appreciate the rooms and corridors that Wells himself inhabited as he dreamed up stories about monsters in both alien and human form.
The Time Machine, London Library, 14 St James's Square, SW1Y 4LG, £32-£35 (£28 for members). Until 5 April
Last Updated 31 March 2020