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Signed performance: 7th February 2024 at 7.30pm
Audio Described performance: 13th January 2024 at 2.30pm
Henry wishes to return to loving wife Clare. Trouble is, he's a time traveller and chronology is conspiring against them.
A new British musical by Joss Stone and Dave Stewart.
(seen at the afternoon performance on 18th October 2023)
This is a truly original blend of romance and science-fiction, as Clare meets Henry, a man genetically programmed to time travel (at random times), throughout her life.
Lauren Gunderson does the best job she can adapting Audrey Niffenegger’s novel for the limits of a stage musical. Video captions and animation (Andrzej Goulding) prove invaluable clarifying timelines and character ages.
Between them, they chop the musical into delineated sections and chapters, creating the episodic feel of a television special - with added songs.
Joss Stone, Dave Stewart, Nick Finlow and Kait Kerrigan surprise on this score (pun intended). There is probably an intention to create a “big number,” and certainly there is a feel of them trying to emerge at the classic points where these should in a musical.
That they do not entirely is not a writers' mistake or directorial (Bill Buckhurst) error. It is more that this show is so blended into a single entity that for one element to take precedence would damage the entire piece. That said, “I See Her”, “This Time” and “A Woman’s Intuition” are strong moments of lyric and melody.
Magic consultant Chris Fisher is on top form with a magnificent “Pepper’s Ghost” derived illusion - you will maybe glimpse the mechanics as Anna Fleischle’s impressive two-turntable set revolves.
Fleischle cunningly takes us from luxurious apartments to meadows, libraries, restaurants, and street scenes – oh, and the monkey wants the bird portrait when they have finished with it, please.
Susanna Peretz’s hair and make-up contributions cannot be over-praised; alongside Fleischle, their careful research creates accurately the authentic look, feel and prices of the 1980s.
Shelley Maxwell perhaps has a problem choreographing expected musical theatre ensemble numbers into such a naturalistic piece, but her party moments make full use of the space and talent available, Rory Beaton and Lucy Carter’s lighting adding rainbows and a sweet moment for seagulls in the auditorium.
David Hunter’s caring, confused, abandoned Henry has an inner strength matching Joanna Woodward’s vulnerable Clare. It is easy to understand why the pair wait for each other, and they play outstanding scenes as he avenges a terrible wrong done.
The supporting cast are equally strong. Wary Gomez (Tim Mahendran) moves from awkward teen to family man, working well with Serina Matthew (covering for absent Hiba Elchikhe) as friend and later wife Charisse. As Clare’s confidants and protectors, they understand as best they can.
There’s strong work too from Ross Dawes and Sorelle Marsh as Henry’s parents, Dawes getting the longer scene giving a chance to develop more deeply his elderly moment to good effect.
At the other end of the scale, Holly-Jade Roberts as Young Clare and, later, Alba, has a capable voice and ability even now to both hold the stage alone and vanish convincingly from it.
The show itself is probably 20 minutes too long, the end meandering when the story's tension has already expired. A key revelation made too soon rather removes the emotional impact of too numerous closing scenes.
Notably, it is also not clearly explained why our male protagonist appears at different ages later in the show, while appearing always to be the same age in the first half. Other niggles in the timeline are a very clear stricture that actions cannot alter events – yet setting up a lottery win is possible...
... and the question arises that if Henry cannot take anything with him (clothes included) as he travels, what happens if he has tooth fillings or artificial joints fitted?
If not quite as strong as the material suggests it might have been, this is still an unusual and hugely satisfying production created and presented with all possible attention and care by the team. A rare find that will appeal to those who love, who love musical theatre and almost certainly those who avoid it in favour of “Doctor Who” and the like.
Sophisticated and engaging, worth breaking into your own timeline for.
Audrey Niffenegger’s novel is perhaps one of the hardest time-travel stories to adapt to a live setting, yet it has become a film, a TV series and now a musical. I’ve seen them all, of the three I feel the musical makes the strongest fist of rendering live.
It does borrow some good ideas (the simple projecting of text, for example “Clare is 20, Henry is 24” lets us know where we are in this non-linear timeline) from the TV series. But this is it’s own production, make no mistake.
If you don’t know the story, Henry has a genetic quirk that has him slip through time. There are certain triggers, sometimes it’s just random. But there is an anchor; initially his mother, later Clare, who he first meets when she is young, slipping into her (linear) timeline as younger and older versions of himself.
Our story really begins when Clare (20) enters a library to do research and is referred to Henry (24), who hasn’t met her yet, but Clare has known him her entire life…
The score is clever; it deliberately (we’re talking Dave Stewart and Joss Stone here; two songwriters of this skill aren’t doing this by accident) has strong numbers throughout, but not one dominating showstopper; given the time-slipping nature of the narrative, things need to remain on an even keel musically.
The set? It’s amazing. Using rectangular blocks on a double-revolve stage, by adding the occasional panel or prop it morphs into meadows, apartments, restaurants, Doctor’s offices, libraries seamlessly.
The lighting is spot on. Raising or lowering tone evokes sunny meadows, stormy city streets and much more. And the aforementioned text projections quickly anchor us in place so simply yet effectively. And sound, lighting and amazing effects all come into play when Henry time-slips. Especially the first time - there were gasps of amazement from the audience - as he disappeared, Clare left holding his coat, right in front of our eyes.
Talking costume, costume and hair combine nicely to lock us firmly into the Eighties timeline where the bulk of this show happens.
But none of this works unless the cast can take hold of a difficult storyline to relate and make it feel real. And they do so with aplomb. The always reliable David Hunter is Henry; he has to move from young and arrogant to older and sensitive to somewhere in the middle (in one notable scene he has to change age, attitude and look within a couple of minutes… and is seemingly on stage in two places at once!). That he pulls it off is testament to his acting and singing, as well as his conditioning and stamina!
Much kudos goes to Tim Mahendran as Gomez and Hiba Elhickhe as Charisse, Clare’s lifelong friends and support mechanism. They create much of the humour and play off one another beautifully. And Ross Dawes and Sorrel Marsh as Henry’s parents are warm, charming… with Dawes figuring longer in Henry’s story to portray a man broken by fate with conviction.
But the anchor of this story is Clare (this is, after all, The Time Traveller’s WIFE). And Joanna Woodward shines. She is both in need of support yet supportive when Henry requires. She has to move from excited at first meeting to broken when an awful wrong is committed (she and David play this so powerfully), through happiness, despair, acceptance and to being the bedrock on which the relationship (and family) depend. And she segues from one to the other with utter conviction.
My wife Laura and I have been big fans since seeing Joanna in a small role in ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ through a range of other parts, to understudying the lead in two of the biggest female leads of recent years (Carole King in Beautiful and Vivan in Pretty Woman). All of this paved the way for her to take the lead in her own right; She gives it her considerable all.
But Clare couldn’t be Clare without seeing her early years, played with maturity for one so young by Holly-Jade Roberts. She is one to watch for the future (pun intended).
This is a spectacular show with amazing effects brought to life by a superb cast. Do yourself a favour and book tickets yesterday.
Seat Review: Stalls M10 and 11
Nicely central, close enough to pick up every expression yet far enough back to take in the stage. Decent leg room, comfortable enough that few fidgets were had. Perhaps a bit narrow, but not too bad. Sound is good from these seats. Rake is OK, but when the people in front sat down, my wife (5ft ½ inch) and I (5ft 10) had to swap seats to give her the best chance of seeing the stage! But overall (as long as Marge Simpson doesn’t sit in front) these are good seats to choose.
I popped in to see TTW last night (3rd November 2023) - they've taken out rows A and B in the Stalls. They've installed a high stage (for the revolve). Row C seems to be discounted - and rightly, because it's actually quite uncomfortable to look up for that long (although you get lots of legroom). Felt sorry for row D which may well be full price and have a similar problem!
The monkey advises checking performance times on your tickets and that performances are happening as scheduled, before travelling.
Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Runs 2 hours 30 minutes approximately.
THERE ARE NO PERFORMANCES OF ANY PRODUCTION ON 25th DECEMBER 2023.
During the "Holiday Season" from 18th December 2023 until 7th January 2024, the above schedules will vary.
Charts showing scheduled performances during this period are available using the links below:
For Monday 18th December 2023 until Sunday 24th December 2023, click here.
For Monday 25th December 2023 until Sunday 31st December 2023, click here.
For Monday 1st January until Sunday 7th January 2024, click here.
Theatres use "dynamic pricing." Seat prices change according to demand for a particular performance. Prices below were compiled as booking originally opened. Current prices are advised at time of enquiry.