Review: The Time Machine, A Comedy (Touring)

Tuesday 14th March 2023 at York Theatre Royal.


The Time Machine: A Comedy, written by Steven Canny and John Nicholson and directed by Orla O’Loughlin, is very funny – when it hits its stride.

Laying the foundations in Act 1, the cast introduce H.G. Wells’ great great grandson who has decided to honour the legacy of the great author with a show, only to discover that granddaddy isn’t the only one with time-defying capabilities (very luckily, as it turns out). The tone is set beautifully by bold, energised performances full of twinkles and a sense of spontaneous charm, but for all the entertainment, it feels a bit too muddled as farce and key information jostle for attention. Of course I freely admit that this impression may well boil down to my subconscious aversion to all things relating to science and jargon…

Act two arrives and it takes no time at all to be swept along to reap the rewards of those tricky foundations laid in Act 1. The laughs pick up thick and fast and the wry and melodramatic performances from the cast we warmed to so easily – however uncertain we were of plot – now really get their chance to shine.

And shine they do, starting with Michael Dylan, who gives a hilariously theatrical performance full of histrionic relish. Amy Revelle is fabulous as she flips between very different roles with impressive speed and flair – particularly entertaining in those between-moments when the cast step out of role to bicker over what to do about this whole being-on-stage-with-everyone-watching-while-we-fall-apart thing. Dave Hearn – between stints in role as said exuberant great great grandson – impresses as a kind of consummate master of ceremonies, guiding us (along with his increasingly perturbed cast mates) through the madness we see before us while also delivering on skilful, front-footed audience interaction.

There’s much to love – starting with such a well-cast trio, but also top notch audience patter, plenty of great physicality and some rather brilliant sequences set to music – I’ll say no more for fear of spoilers. Colin Grenfell’s lighting designs and Gregory Clarke’s sound designs smoothly channel the classic sci-fi sights and sounds of time travel narratives and Fred Miller’s set design provides a fitting backdrop for a story built on the thrill and fear of toying with our reality.

I’d say take the punt, but prepare to be patient – the antics of the cast when the show is at its peak will provide plenty of fun and laughter.

The Time Machine is at York Theatre Royal until March 18th 2023 – you can find more information and tickets here.

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