The War of the Worlds at Pleasance Courtyard is an interesting and very well produced and presented work from Rhum and Clay Theatre that promises much, and for the most part delivers on that promise.
The first thing to make clear to anyone thinking of going to this show is that it is not a recreation of the famous 1938 radio broadcast of “The War of The Worlds” by Orson Welles for CBS Radio series The Mercury Theatre on the Air. That may be the imagery used with the “fake news tag-line”, but the real story is, as its fringe programme description states, more about exploring the creation of fake news in our society and its often hidden and subliminal impact upon so many people. Tying both of these stories together, the past and the present is a family story where, again, opinions of the truth change according to which side of the story you listen to. There are for me some unanswered questions right at the beginning of this family aspect of the story, and they remain unanswered. This is a shame as they are for me some of the crucial moments in this little drama within the bigger drama.
By its very nature of the present tying into the actual events of a radio broadcast that was over 80 years ago now and the impact that this fictional story had upon the real lives of those who “believed” that the Earth had been invaded by Martians establishing their beach head in the small town of Grovers Mill, New Jersey, we have a story line that constantly shifts between the present and the past. This format is always one that can lead to confusion, particularly when we have the same actors in never changing costumes playing multiple parts, but here some skilful writing helps with the scene and time shifts.
This story would have made a wonderful period piece if it had kept to the original broadcast, and perhaps that is what some members of the audience thought they were getting (who knows), but as a three story plotline converging together, we run out of time before the family drama or the fake news production one are fully explored for me. Whatever the story line on stage though, the cast made up of Jess Mabel Jones, Julian Spooner, Amalia Vitale and Matthew Wells give some fine performances with their multiple characters and making sure that their “worlds” have some substance, there is also skilful use of period audio clips.
The War of The Worlds is a warning to us all to always question information given to us and directors Hamish MacDougall and Julian Spooner have with this story written by Isley Lynn found an unusual angle to highlight the dangers to us all from manipulation by unseen people and the agendas that they may be implementing.
Despite the flyer’s claims, The War of The Worlds was of course not the first or original fake radio/media news; that had been done since the creation of the radio and World War 1 is as good an example as any of “fake news” to the masses in all media formats available to those who created it. What is different this time round is that the ability to create and distribute that product is now in the hands of anyone with access to social media and the wider internet.
The War of the Worlds
Jul 31 Aug 1-13, 15-26
1 hour 20 minutes
Country: United Kingdom - England
Review by Tom King