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Review - The Time Traveller's Wife

Updated: Nov 4, 2023

Apollo Theatre

Playing until 30th March 2024



Review

When Clare (Joanna Woodward) goes to a library in search of materials for her next art project, she encounters Henry (David Hunter), a part-time librarian, and greets him with surprising familiarity. She seems to have known Henry for a very long time and yet, he doesn’t know her. Clare explains to Henry that she knows he is a time traveller and someday, she will become the person that he searches for whenever he travels.


The story written by Audrey Niffenegger is given a new breadth of freshness through Lauren Gunderson’s script in this musical. Producer, Colin Ingram, intended for this musical to be told from the perspective of Clare. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Clare drives many of the actions and consequences. It was the older Clare’s initiation in the library that prompted David to interact with the ten-year-old Clare and thus starting their continued friendship and subsequently, relationship. Similarly, Henry bought a winning lottery ticket and underwent a vasectomy for Clare’s sake. Given Henry’s spontaneous disappearing acts, Clare is the one that keeps the story grounded and the constant in Henry’s ever-changing life. This is a story of two people, one who searches and one who waits.


This timeless tale shines in its emotional moments, particularly in Act II, including the couple’s struggle of being apart, Clare’s difficulties to conceive and the realisation that their time together, however infrequent, maybe limited. Act I on the other hand, while serves its purpose in introducing the background to Clare and Henry’s relationship, felt rather heavy handed in its use of humour, even where these don’t fit from a mood perspective. For example, the audience is introduced to Clare’s comedic best friends, Gomez (Tim Mahendran) and Charisse (Hiba Elchikhe), then thrown into Jason (Alex Lodge)’s abusive action on Clare, and not long after that, back to the happy introduction of Henry to Gomez and Charisse. Furthermore, although not unexpected, it would have been helpful to show how Clare progressed from a happily married woman to somebody who is struggling with the more practical side of being an artist and also married to a man who is often not there for her. The timing simply isn’t sufficiently well paced to allow the audience to react and adjust to these opposing and evolving emotions. Despite the shortcomings of the story, it remains a stronger element than the musical numbers. Nonetheless, Woodward and Hunter’s exceptional and emotive performances are enough to stimulate the necessary responses in the key moments of the story.


Both Joanna Woodward and David Hunter are mesmerising actors, bringing the characters of Henry and Clare to life. Hunter’s Henry is slightly awkward, perhaps due to his inability to form lasting relationships due to his condition, but given the opportunity and time (even though the latter not always on his side), he will warm up to people other than Clare. Woodward’s Clare goes through a myriad of changes throughout this production, evolving from an enthusiastic young artist without a care in the world to a woman who starts to understand the challenges that come with a marriage to a time traveller and then the difficulties of losing her loved ones. While Woodward and Hunter have their individual moments to shine, the highlights will always be when the two are reunited and perform together, whether a happy reunion or their last moment together.


Beyond the story and the music, this musical has two more standout elements, the illusions and the video design. Prior to seeing the show, I was intrigued by how this stage production would create Henry’s sudden appearances and disappearances as he jumps through time. Unsurprisingly, many of these take place off-stage and shown as flashes of light or lightning like effects. However, through clever stage sets, body doubles and illusions designed by Chris Fisher, there is a level of anticipation and excitement that come with Henry’s time travel. The video design by Andrzej Goulding climaxes in the musical number, “Journeyman”, creating a pop concert like effect and showcases Henry’s journey through time, a genuine spectacle to behold.


The Time Traveller’s Wife capitalises on an emotive storyline that is loved by many people, and when combined with the talents like Joanna Woodward and David Hunter, this musical will capture the heart of both new audiences and long-serving fans. It is visually spectacular and full of effects to create a genuine sci-fi experience on stage. However, despite its many strengths, the insufficient depth associated with Clare’s character evolution, imbalance between the serious and light-hearted moments in Act I, and the forgettable musical numbers all contribute to the dampening of the overall impact of the production.


Creatives


Writer: Lauren Gunderson


Music & Lyrics: Joss Stone, Dave Stewart


Director: Bill Buckhurst


Video Designer and Animator: Andrzej Goulding



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