The War of the Worlds
Rhum and Clay Theatre Company's 'The War of the Worlds' is a brilliantly executed examination of the nature of truth and the storytelling drive which has underpinned our attempts to understand the world around us for centuries.
HG Wells published his famous science fiction story of Martian invasion in 1897. It continues to fascinate readers and has provided the inspiration for numerous adaptations, from 1970s rock musical to Hollywood blockbuster. In this ingenious theatrical reincarnation, it is the 1938 radio drama broadcast, memorably performed by Orson Welles, which allows writer Isley Lynn to chart the devastating development of what we all now know as 'fake news'.
The story of the reaction to Welles' broadcast is well known: hysteria, terror, shock and panic. Many listeners truly believed that what they were hearing was true. Aliens from Mars were attacking. People left their homes and fled to safety. This production cleverly weaves together a family story about a young girl on the night of the broadcast with a modern investigation to discover the truth about what happened to her.
The four-strong cast are superb, morphing seamlessly from all playing a pipe-wielding Welles at the same time to embodying a rich variety of other characters convincingly. Light, sound and video projections work hypnotically alongside beautifully choreographed movement (Matt Wells) to create a visually stunning piece of theatre.
Jess Mabel Jones is brilliant as the ambitious but conflicted Meena, a podcaster desperately in search of the next 'Serial' style hit. The story of Margaret, a recently deceased American woman who was seemingly abandoned by her family on the night of the Orson Welles' War of the Worlds broadcast when she was just 13 years old, might be her ticket to success. Meena travels from England to Grover's Mill New Jersey (the site of the apparent Martian invasion) to meet Margaret's estranged niece, Lawson, and investigate. She soon finds some important lines blurring: news and entertainment, fact and fiction, fantasy and reality.
The consequences of these blurred lines on individuals and families are intelligently explored in the relationship dynamics between Lawson (Gina Isaac), her husband Ted (Matt Wells) and their son Jonathan (Julian Spooner). Fake news in the Internet age is brought into the spotlight as we discover the shocking financial incentives which encourage people to create and share misinformation. The writing is always sharp, teasing out the complex interplay between the personal and the political in dramatically intense style.
An ambitious, brave and challenging production which forces audiences to confront some of the thorniest questions of our age: What is truth? How do we make sense of the world? Who do we believe? And perhaps most importantly: who has the power to tell the most influential stories which shape our world? Fascinating questions explored in an exciting, stimulating and superbly performed production.
War of the Worlds is playing at Warwick Arts Centre from 13th to 16th October 2021.