Chris Eldon Lee reviews ‘The Time Machine’ which he saw at Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn
Robert Lloyd Parry received yet another thoroughly deserved standing ovation at Theatre Severn the other night. The audience just wouldn’t let him leave the stage…which is remarkable considering he barely seemed to do anything.
Robert’s acting technique is quite simple…don’t bother. There is not a scrap of actorliness about him at all. He just tells the fantastical story, all by himself, with the bare minimum of props and effects …and he’s totally captivating.
I have accused him before of adopting a kind of ‘Test Match Special’ approach to ghost stories. Here he’s more ‘Terry Wogan on Eurovision Night’… doling out ever so disparaging comments about of alien cultures. He just fast-talks his way around the stage in the grubbiest long johns imaginable and brown socks full of holes and draws his audience in…till your nose is right up to his big bushy beard. It’s a very special skill … way off the RADA radar.
Time travel is very thirsty work and it hurts when you laugh, he tells us. Oh! for a jigsaw puzzle to remind him of life back home. The point is, of course, that he is at home, in Richmond, just eight hundred thousand years into the future; where, even more remarkably, they still have mown lawns on which to land a giant metronome-like time machine.
The moral thrust of HG Well’s story is what will eventually happen to Man if we continue to ignore the perils of a society divided into ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. The ‘haves’ fade into gormless passiveness because there is nothing more to achieve – and the ‘have nots’ grow ugly, live in darkness, and eat the ‘haves’.
Robert’s style is a concoction of clever wit, matter of fact-ness, and a desperate enthusiasm to tell his tale. But shining through it emerges Well’s dire warning that to achieve perfection is to commit suicide.
There have been literal films of the story but the great thing about this one-man show is that the descriptions happen right inside your head. The monstrous Morlocks – slithering human spiders – are squirm-making. The petite china doll Eloi engender our distain with their lazy ineffectiveness. Yet, they are so pathetic they tug at the hearts strings. One female is so pious, the Victorian traveller falls for the same love-sick trick Star Trek’s Captain Kirk regularly falls for; he goes back to save her.
But what is most audacious about this show is that – like the film of Apollo 13 – you know damn well the Time Traveller gets back safely…but the suspense is still palpable.
This one-man Time Machine is a very clever idea, perfectly executed with the minimum of fuss and bother. It’s well worth travelling 800,000 years for.