It’s described in the show’s programme as a multimedia show, but this adaptation of The Crystal Egg not only takes longer to tell its tale than it would to read the original HG Wells short story, it doesn’t contain very much ‘multimedia’ beyond an appropriately egg-shaped object that twinkles and changes colour. A nicely done projection of a scene sufficiently described in any case makes an appearance towards the end of the performance, but I still wouldn’t entirely agree that this is a ‘multimedia show’.
There is, to be fair, an additional prologue scene that introduces the late nineteenth-century setting, rightly ensuring that no prior knowledge of The Crystal Egg science-fiction story is needed before coming to the show. A somewhat elaborate set has been constructed just for this opening scene, before the audience is invited to enter into the shop and living space of Mr Cave (Mark Parsons) and his family, which includes his nephew, Charley Wace (Desmond Carney).
The story itself starts off as being rather predictable. The objectionable wife, Mrs Cave (Jessica Boyde) struggles to understand quite why her husband becomes obsessed with the egg. But things are, in the end, left open-ended, even more so than in the original Wells text, leaving audience members, should they wish to do so, to work out for themselves what becomes of Charley and his egg. Egg (I may as well personify it) seems to have the power to infect the minds of its beholders, and make them unwell.
It would logically follow that the thing to do would be to destroy Egg, by brute force or some other means, in order to ensure it can no longer cause damage. That, however, would make for too short a play, though I hasten to add at least Mrs Cave does eventually ask Charley to get rid of it. Bosso-Kuni (Vincent La Torre), meanwhile, does something that I would probably be inclined to do if I took an interest in an item on display in a shop full of curiosities, only to be told the object in question is not for sale – pursue a purchase all the more. (No prizes for guessing what it is that he wants to buy.)
Is it well-staged? Yes and no. It uses the available performance space excellently. In doing so,however, some of the action is missed depending on where audience members are sat, such is the sheer length of the stage space. At the risk of making this production sound like a stand-up comedy gig, sitting in the front row is not advised for those who would describe themselves as bashful.
A steadily paced play, some questions are raised about personal privacy and the various ways in which this can be invaded. The sci-fi elements of the story are both intriguing and absurd, though in today’s real world, with CCTV cameras, tracking devices and social media, the general concept of always and forever being watched demonstrates some significant forward thinking in Wells’ own mind. There are ebbs and flows in this production, and the ambiguous ending will leave some a tad dissatisfied while thrilling others who prefer cryptic conclusions. What’s true of this play is true of life: not everything is (crystal) clear.
Review by Chris Omaweng
They Are Watching!
London’s newest immersive, multi-media experience is about to land in a sci-fi extravaganza at The Vaults, Waterloo.
The Crystal Egg Live by H.G. Wells tells the story of Charley Cave. After watching his father dash into the night, Charley is taken in by Uncle Wace, an eccentric old man who, with his dysfunctional family, runs a curiosity shop in London’s Seven Dials Rookery.
When the body of his father is found in the river, Charley inherits the sole possession found with it – a crystal egg. Believing the object to be of value, the family plan to sell it quickly and improve their lives. However one night Wace makes a chance discovery about this seemingly innocent item, a discovery that threatens to tear the family apart and plunge the world into a greater danger.
Old Lamp Entertainment invites you to The Vaults to uncover the secret for yourself. Fusing multiple art forms including light, sound, video, and performance; this production will bring to life the work of seminal writer H. G. Wells, author of ‘The War of the Worlds’ and ‘The Time Machine’ like never before.
Step back into 19th Century London to discover an object of immense power amongst the dusty relics of Wace’s curio shop, and come face to face with creatures of another world.
What would you do if you knew you were being watched? Watched by someone you were not even aware was there?
Director: Elif Knight
Producer / Writer: Mike Archer
Exectutive Producer: Luisa Guerreiro
Producer: Rebekah Harvey
Lighting Designer: Simeon Miller
Sound Designer: Dave Holden
Set Designer: Jason Kelvin
THE CRYSTAL EGG
Leake Street, SE1 7NN