This year we have been lucky enough to have several regional premieres in the North West. The Time Traveller’s Wife is the latest, having its world premiere at the Storyhouse in Chester. With music and lyrics by Joss Stone and Dave Stewart, along with a killer cast, anticipation has been bubbling for this show since its announcement.
The Time Traveller’s Wife tells the love story of Henry (David Hunter) and Clare (Joanna Woodward), as originally told by Audrey Niffenegger in her best-selling novel of the same name. Their love is complicated by the fact that Henry is a time traveller who can disappear at any given moment, usually at the most inconceivable one! Throughout the piece, Henry travels through Clare’s past, present and future in a random and uncontrollable order. Not being familiar with the story, I entered the theatre with trepidation about how easily I would be able to follow the story. I needn’t have worried!
There has been no expense spared on this show, and the set design is pure genius. A few new musicals have used projections and screens effectively, but none to the same effect as this show. A number of large rectangular set pieces rotated on a revolve, revealing new sets on each turn. We were never confused where in time we were, with handwritten messages projected on to stage pieces and props, letting the audience know the characters ages and relationship stage at the time of the scene.
With Magic Circle member Chris Fisher ('Back To The Future' and 'Harry Potter & The Cursed Child') on hand for the illusions, there was absolutely no worries about making time travelling a reality. Each of Henry’s instances of disappearing, reappearing and quick changes were more impressive than the previous. The true barometer for how perfectly the on-stage magic was executed was that I was less focused on working out how they did certain things and more entranced with the story, believing what I saw on stage.
We are treated to a visual feast of how Henry feels when time travelling with ‘Journeyman’ at the start of Act 2. No attempts were made to hide the illusion here, allowing the audience to fully appreciate and focus on the beauty of this show highlight moment. The music throughout the show isn’t full of memorable tunes you will hum on the way home, but I had absolutely no issue with this. What the music is, is powerful, invokes genuine emotion and moves the story forward in a seamless and beautiful way. Tim Mahendran (Gomez) was dazzling in ‘Damn Fool Love’ which utilises his beautifully rich vocals. The vocal performance of the night however came from the sublime Joanna Woodward, who made the audience feel every emotion with her beautifully pure yet powerful vocals. She really was the heart of the show and the audience really empathise with her through a lifetime worth of emotions.
Emotions and heart were what this show really was full of. I didn’t think I would be moved as profoundly as I was, luckily the safe haven of the theatre hid my tears. My friend refused to talk about what we had just witnessed immediately afterwards, fearing that doing so would bring back the tears outside the safe confines of the Storyhouse. If that isn’t powerful theatre, I don’t know what is!
Time is nothing... The Time Travellers Wife is EVERYTHING!
I caught this show on its last day in Chester. However, watch this space for details of a likely West End Transfer. I’m looking forward to seeing this show thrive on the West End stage and hope it can keep its outstanding cast when doing so.