While not even Herbert George Wells’s own first dalliance with the concept of time travel, his 1895 novella The Time Machine has nevertheless become pretty much the definitive text on the subject – one television Time Lord notwithstanding. Certainly, it’s held to be among the earliest pillars of the science fiction genre, alongside Wells’ own The War of the Worlds and The Island of Dr Moreau, which essentially set the standard for alien invasions and genetics.
this speedy, take-no-prisoners adaptation of The Time Machine is respectful of H G Wells’s original tale
Classic though it is, Wells’s The Time Machine is probably not everyone’s idea of particularly child-friendly, family entertainment; not least that nasty bit about the far-future underground-living Morlocks, monstrous descendants of the British working classes, essentially farming the gentile, upper class Eloi as cattle. The Scientific Romance Theatre Company, however, have an excellent solution. They treat the whole thing as a modern fairytale, tell it partly using puppets, and lighten the nastier moments with humour; some verging on slapstick for the grown-ups, some clever enough to keep the kids interested. Strangely enough, their approach genuinely works.
Matt Rudkin plays the Time Traveller, as well as operating his own self-made puppet avatar within those scenes where the budget clearly doesn’t extend to completely changing their drawing room set; Rudkin may initially come across as slightly earnest, but soon gains the audience’s attention and affection. Meantime Rick Conte, equipped with a truly fabulous moustache, provides some depth to both “the Editor”, in the Victorian-set framework, and Weena, the young Eloi who the Time Traveller befriends some 800,000 years in the future. Deborah Arnott successfully gives housekeeper and a suspiciously trade-unionist-sounding Morlock leader real energy.
Under the expert direction of the much-admired Andy Cannon, this speedy, take-no-prisoners adaptation of The Time Machine is respectful of H G Wells’s original tale while never taking itself too seriously. Importantly, recognising its own necessary limitations, it’s a production which brilliantly makes the best of them, not least giving its younger audience members numerous opportunities to stretch their own imaginations – and perhaps just pick up a few ideas along the way!