The War of the Worlds at The Dominion Theatre – Review

The War of the Worlds at Dominion TheatreHG Well’s The War of the Worlds was published in 1898, when still on the throne and electric light was still in its infancy. The book is uniquely English, with aliens landing on Primrose Hill, North London. The book caused a stir when it was published and continues to attract new audiences to its enthralling storyline. Now, the book has been adapted as a musical for the stage.

Unfortunately, the book has been adapted as a musical for the stage. Why was this book every adapted as a musical for the stage? It is a disaster.

This current stage adaption from Jeff Wayne involves heavy metal music oddly mixed with an orchestra of a dozen string instruments, and aliens with laser beams – lots and lots of laser beams. Along with the loud music and the light show, there are complicated robotic Martians who move across the stage and reach the ceiling, nearly. There are film clips projected, just so the audience knows what is supposed to be happening in the show, because with all of the sensory overload, there is little room for explanatory language or acting. The show also incorporates Liam Neeson narrating parts of the book, albeit in a hologramesque form. The actors in the current version are taken, in part, from the music world’s front men, although this talent stream does not seem to have much effect on the final staged product.

Like a great piece of art, one should be able to enjoy the entertainment at face value without knowing the particular history of this adaptation, without knowing the particular history of the musicians on stage. If you go into this show knowing the history of the musical productions of The War of the Worlds, and are therefore anticipating the heavy music, excessive lighting, and overall barrage of light and sound, then perhaps this show is for you. But for those who know not the history of the music, this show seems a muddled attempt to combine too many aspects of stage performance into a short space and time.

Overall, the show is flashy. The aggressive use of strobe lighting, as well as strange unnatural presentation techniques, and music left me wondering if I were watching a musical based on a Victorian book or a heavy metal band playing in concert. There is no other way to describe the headache and nauseous feeling I felt during the performance. Unfortunately, the show also left me feeling that I caught little of the actual spoken or sung dialogue. The band overpowered all but the projected soul of Mr Neeson.

The adaptation does succeed in bringing the story to a different demographic who might not normally attend a West End show – those who enjoy loud, disjointed musical concerts with a fantastic light show. This is not a bad thing, whatsoever. If you are this person, this is the show for you. If you are not, you might want to pass for a more traditional evening of theatre.

1 star

Review by Jennifer Daley

Jeff Wayne’s global music phenomenon is reimagined and brought to spectacular life for its much anticipated world stage-premiere. This new production features a star cast, full supporting company, Liam Neeson in 3D holography and on screen, the iconic Martian Fighting Machine, special effects, and a live on-stage orchestra conducted by Jeff Wayne.

The ground-breaking score, which has enjoyed over 15 million double albums sales and a staggering 330 weeks in the charts, includes the unforgettable hits The Eve Of The War, Thunder Child and Forever Autumn. Set in Victorian England and inspired by the famous H.G. Wells novel of the same name, The War Of The Worlds tells the devastating story of the invasion of Earth by Martians, as seen through the eyes of a journalist, his loved ones and those he encounters.

“No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched by intelligences which inhabited the timeless worlds of space… and yet, minds immeasurably superior to ours, regarded this Earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely, they drew their plans against us…”

The War of the Worlds
Dominion Theatre
Age Restrictions: 
Recommended age of 8 years or older
Show Opened: 8th February 2016
Booking Until: 30th April 2016

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