War of the Worlds (THEATRE REVIEW)

The War Of The Worlds

A show about the invasion of aliens is a right mess

London’s Dominion Theatre has been invaded by aliens causing massive destruction with people fleeing for their lives.

Well, on stage that is, not out on the streets. It’s the newest production of 'War of the Worlds', previously shown at the O2 in 2014 to much greater and better effect. In the smaller confines that is West End theatre, ‘War of the Worlds’ and it’s aliens, the village and the villagers are all munched together on the small stage. It's presented as a multimedia experience with a good portion of the show on video screens hanging above and in the back of the stage. Also on the stage is the man himself, composer Jeff Wayne, with his very large 22 piece orchestra, split into two sections. And then we have our narrator - Liam Neeson - whose image pops up (or down in the case of his video screen coming down from rafters) every few minutes explaining to the audience what is happening.

Billed as ‘Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds,’ the show took close to 40 years to reach the West End, and we are graced with the presence Wayne conducting. It’s his music to the famous H.G. Wells dark victorian tale about earth being invaded by aliens that is the highlight of the show. So for two and one half hours, the audience is meant to be immersed, spellbound and scared of what’s taking place on stage, but they’re not.

What’s happening on stage is a mess. While Wayne and his orchestra are in excellent form, the narration, the story and the action do not live up to the hype. Neeson’s screen image goes up and down up and down so many times that it became very very annoying to a point dreading his next appearance. And his narration is a bit hard to understand and hear because of his accent with the noise and chaos taking place on stage. His job is to tell the story, but we can also see the story happening right before our very eyes. And it’s in front of our very eyes where we see the cast running aimlessly back and forth on stage, falling, getting back up, frightened by the aliens (on the video screens no less), and lots of flames. They, and us, are pummelled with flashing lights and high pitched sounds meant to hark the arrival of the aliens. Then an actual mechanical alien walks on to the stage, looking like an extremely large piece of shiny metal with legs - it’s not scary at all. It actually looks unrealistic and silly. And we don’t get to know the characters. David Essex is the star draw who plays The Voice of Humanity, while Daniel Beddingfield pops in to sing a nice song every now and then. But “The Way of the Worlds’ is a show that’s all over the place and I was very disappointed because I was expecting to be immersed, spellbound and scared. Unfortunately, I was none of them.