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The War of the Worlds, New Diorama Theatre – Review

Pros: The seamless combination of action, lighting and sound. Cons: Nothing much springs to mind. Don’t go to this show expecting a complete run through of the HG Wells book. Instead, using the 1938 Orson Welles radio broadcast as a starting point, Rhum and Clay have explored people’s propensity to readily accept that all they hear and read is true with, in this case, some unintended consequences for one family.Starting off with a re-creation of the radio play the focus then switches to a wannabe podcaster in the recent past. Learning that a neighbour’s lately deceased mother lived in…

Summary

Rating

Very good

Lively and humorous comparison between reactions to fake news circulated during the 2016 USA presidential elections and reactions to the 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds.

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Pros: The seamless combination of action, lighting and sound.

Cons: Nothing much springs to mind.

Don’t go to this show expecting a complete run through of the HG Wells book. Instead, using the 1938 Orson Welles radio broadcast as a starting point, Rhum and Clay have explored people’s propensity to readily accept that all they hear and read is true with, in this case, some unintended consequences for one family.

Starting off with a re-creation of the radio play the focus then switches to a wannabe podcaster in the recent past. Learning that a neighbour’s lately deceased mother lived in Grover’s Hill, New Jersey as a child (this is where the Orson Welles adaptation was set), she travels there to research a possible story. Having somehow managed to track down her neighbour’s estranged family, she lies about her identity to inveigle her way in as a long lost relative in a search for ‘The Truth’ . Her deception is discovered, of course, via the very media systems through which fake news is promulgated. There are amusing characterisations and jokes throughout, resulting in ripples of laughter.

The minimal set is surrounded by opaque screens containing doors, through which the characters enter and exit, and a rather ominous looking control booth overseeing the action. The four-strong cast do an excellent job of playing all of the parts, using a small selection of props, consisting mainly of mics, pipes and an old fashioned heavy radio. The constant character switching is not at all manic nor hard to follow. Instead, it fits in nicely with the expertly choreographed movement throughout the 80 minutes
duration, ensuring the energy levels and interest are maintained. It’s about time I mentioned the wonderful lighting and sound, both of which lift this production out of the ‘good’ category. Snippets of recordings intermingled with the dialogue are timed perfectly to provide a mix of modern and 1930s styles and sounds. The lighting moves the locations between continents and decades, at one point evoking an alien invasion.

The comments and questions raised are not new but the comparison with the situation in 1938 is an interesting angle. Allegedly there was widespread panic during and after the broadcast, with listeners who had missed the start mistaking the newsreel style for a report of actual events. Perhaps the origins of fake news are older than usually thought. Overall an enjoyable, humorous, action-filled 80 minutes.

Author: Isley Lynn
Directors: Hamish MacDougall and Julian Spooner
Box Office: 02073839034
Booking Link: https://www.newdiorama.com/whats-on/the-war-of-the-
worlds

Booking Until: 9 February 2019

Editor’s note: Due to an editing error this review was originally published with 5 stars, when in fact the reviewer had awarded it 4 stars. That still makes it a very good show, but Everything Theatre apologises for the mix-up.

About Irene Lloyd

Currently a desk zombie in the public sector, Irene has had no formal training or experience in anything theatrical. She does, however, seem to spend an awful lot of her spare time and spare cash going to the theatre. So, all views expressed will be from the perspective of the person on the Clapham omnibus - which is what most audiences are made up of after all.