Steven Canny and John Nicholson’s two-act three-hander, described as ‘very loosely’ adapted from the HG Wells novel, is part backstage farce, part Doctor Who ‘timey-wimey’ special (blending the droller elements of Russell T Davies’ vintage with a certain Stephen Moffat acidity) underpinned by a celebratory silliness in the vein of panto but without actually making it seasonal. A little rough – belonging firmly in the screwball sketch comedy camp – with occasional digressions and cul-de-sacs (some more entertaining than others) The Time Machine is nonetheless jolly good fun.
Director Orla O’Loughlin deftly conducts the production’s comic pace with a winning cadence – aided by the intrinsically excellent timing of the show’s cast: Michael Dylan, Dave Hearn and Amy Revelle who all gel with strong – and adequately bonkers – chemistry.
This comedy hasn’t got a single ‘challenging note’ and makes no pretence at social commentary. Its ‘harshest’ real-world jibes are merely an (apparently ad-lib) gentle eye-roll at a former polytechnic’s rebranding as a university and pity for the user of any given mobile phone network – and it’s all the more engaging for it. The Time Machine manages to be absurd without being angry. It employs classic comic conventions (lack of self-awareness, claustrophobia, incongruity of character expectation, nonsensical props and costumes) with top-notch physicality – both athletic and goofy.
Dave Hearn (actor performing a character of the same name) wants to run the show and see his play performed. Yes, the in-jokes of frustrated thespians seem to be about 80% of the Park Theatre’s comic repertoire these days but so what? It works because it isn’t trying terribly hard. And Hearn occupies the stage with astonishing presence and physicality, excelling in both slapstick and grace – each of which fulfil humour’s promise as described by Immanuel Kant as ‘an affection arising from the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing.’ Yet in addition to heightened desire dashed as bupkis (like the ‘breathtaking’ disappearance of a 6-inch ‘time machine’ into an end table’s compartment), we also get further entertainment simply through surprisingly good spectacle in the form of eventually indulged song-and-dance routines. Hearn and several others have extensive credits in the ‘(insert name of thing) That Goes Wrong’ franchise and the fine chops they’ve earned in enacting such escalating travesty are on display in this production.
Amy Revelle perhaps shows the greatest range of the performers – enacting a myriad of roles, including an extended and very well-executed Importance of Being Ernest trouper’s in-joke and a Cher-fixated fan-girl/tribute act.
Michael Dylan has written a diet of pure scenery-chewing and he excels at it. His timing and delivery are delicious – provided you’re willing to embrace a broad delivery (which you should for this show).
This play doesn’t try to offer an uplifting moralistic ending or a diatribe of political ridicule – but neither does it feel self-restrained or cautious. It simply focuses on some mad and curious elements of humour – some funnier than others – but all solid and pleasing.
If you want something light-hearted but not insipid, with the kind of frivolity the end of the year usually invites – but with nothing actually directly seasonal, The Time Machine is a solid choice.
Review by Mary Beer
Join Dave, Amy and Michael for the premiere of their brand-new version of THE TIME MACHINE.
HG Wells’ comic deadly serious masterpiece will never be the same again as this hapless highly skilled group of actors embark on a journey of a lifetime!
Will Dave persuade the others to stick to the script he’s worked so hard on?
Will Michael be able to explain time travel without the help of excessive props?
Will Amy get to sing her Cher tribute?
And ultimately… will they be able to defeat the space time paradox – or at least get through the second half?
All to be revealed…*
* (no nudity, this is not THAT kind of show!)
Starring Michael Dylan (Wilf), Dave Hearn (founding member of the Olivier Award-winning Mischief Theatre, BBC’s The Goes Wrong Show) and Amy Revelle (Offside).
Original Theatre in association with Park Theatre presents
The Time Machine – A Comedy
By Steven Canny and John Nicholson
(Very) loosely adapted from the novel by HG Wells
Directed by Orla O’Loughlin