When H.G. Wells’ radio play was first broadcast, people panicked because they thought it was actual news. The Martians have landed and England is under attack! While nowadays people are desensitised to this sort of thing, we are still vulnerable to several things: love and music.
The music in this production is out of this world (pun intended) and watching Jeff Wayne himself conduct the orchestra, composed of The Black Smoke Band and the ULLAdubULLA Strings, is amazing. The music is dramatic and powerful, while the song Forever Autumn (sung by Michael Praed and Madalena Alberto) is very touching.
While I’m less than impressed that this production felt the need to rely on ‘celebrities’ to bring in the crowd, for the most part the singing is good, especially the older men. Heidi Range manages to be suitably poignant with her singing to Jimmy Naill in The Spirit of Man, but the less said about the younger singers’ acting the better.
In fact Liam Neeson – in hologram form I hasten to add – is the strongest actor here and his soothing voice as The Narrator blends nicely with the electro-rock feel of the music.
There are bright lights, lots of fire, sound effects, gigantic metal machines and all sorts which makes the production quite chaotic, but this fits in line with the story and the ensemble are fantastic. Liam Steel’s choreography is suitably interpretative, particularly the red reed dancers. However, it does feel as though the piece should be a concert and the actors and dancers are there to simply fill up the stage.
The War of the Worlds is by no means the best production I’ve ever seen, but if you close your eyes and focus on the music, or watch the musicians (Olivia Jaguers is particularly fascinating) then trust me, the overall experience is incredible. It’s just a shame the so-called celebrities got in the way of such a superb classical concert.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Photo: Tristram Kenton
The War of the Worlds is playing at London’s Dominion Theatre until 30 April 2016. Get tickets here