THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
“No one would have believed, in the last years of the 19th century, that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space…”
A review by Anisha of Fashion and Frappes
Taking inspiration from HG Wells’ science fiction book The War of the Worlds and Orson Welles’ radio broadcast from 1938, Rhum & Clay’s version of The War of the Worlds is an interesting mix of science fiction, politics and family drama. You would think a play about a radio broadcast and alien invasion in a small town in the US is irrelevant to our life and times but the play manages to do a fantastic job of bringing this world close to 2019 and our time of fake news, social media and information wars. The medium may have evolved from radio to blogs and podcasting but the basic premise remains the same – information is power and whoever controls the dissemination of information has power.
There are a number of related themes addressed in the play. The radio broadcast when originally played created panic in the town leading residents to believe there was a real alien landing taking place. We learn this was the intention behind the broadcast – in an attempt to compete with television programs which viewers found more attractive. The irony of this – faking news to make the radio more relevant – sets the tone of the play.
With the broadcast as a backdrop we focus on one particular family in the town and their story and see how generations within the family were affected by the (fake) alien landing. This was an interesting reminder of how and why truth matters and how perception effects all of us – from a seemingly happy picture on social media to half truths leading to presidential wins. I have to say I immensely enjoyed the irony within the various stories and the hypocrisies of the various characters on display – is truth important only to the extent it is benefits your narrative?
The play is fast paced with only four main actors but manages to effortlessly shift the scenes from a small apartment in Ealing to small town USA, from a radio broadcast studio to a news anchor at the scene of breaking news. The actors are extremely skilled and believable in the different roles they portray and manage subtle changes in body language, accent and voice which makes it easy to follow the fast paced narrative and change of scene.
The Diorama Theatre space itself is lovely and we spent some time in the cafe before the show. I loved the plastic laminated reusable tickets we were handed – why don’t more theatres follow this practice? We were told a number of times that there is no interval and its about 80 minutes straight through. I was a little worried – what if it was a little tedious? But I have to say, those minutes passed by really quickly – I didn’t check social media even once! I am not the most patient person but this was an effortless watch as well as being a though provoking one. Go along with someone you can have a lively discussion with after the play – you realise the different interpretations and reactions the same play provokes in different people which is part of the charm.