War Of The Worlds

I, like a generation around me, grew up with Jeff Wayne’s hauntingly powerful War Of The Worlds concept album. Everything about it, from the opening three notes, to the cover artwork is iconic. Moving. Powerful. And for many, it is the best version of H. G. Wells’ original 1898 novel (save, maybe, that little upset caused by the 1938 radio broadcast in America).

The progressive rock album features vocals by Justin Hayward, Phil Lynott, Julie Covington and David Essex, with the narration provided by the commanding tones of Richard Burton. I have loved the album from my original scratchy vinyl version, through CD and now to the MP3 file I carry around on my iPod. It is, for many, sacrosanct and you interfere with it at your peril.

Lucky then, for Pip Utton, that his goal is to present the story pretty much as written, using Jeff Wayne’s score as a backdrop.

The opening is surprisingly exciting. Those notes fill the darkened Baby Belly Caves with an impressive richness, which makes the audience audibly gasp. We are all here for the same reason – and this is our rallying call. Utton takes to the stage, and begins with ‘No one would have believed’. The performance continues as a mixture of the dialogue, song and Wayne’s soundtrack.

Why then, does it not work? Well, it could, but there are a few major flaws. Firstly, Utton, whilst a good performer, does not have the gravitas of Burton, nor the vocal abilities of Haywood. Particularly in the upper register, Utton’s vibrato is slightly too exaggerated, and unfortunately it just grates a little. The second problem, and one that could be potentially be fixed, is the audio mix. Whenever Utton is delivering dialogue, Jeff Wayne’s music is faded – meaning even the “Ulla” leitmotif is nothing more than a whisper. Only when Utton breaks into song does the music track volume rise. As Utton is mic’d, I am a lost to understand why the music could not be left at the same level throughout – pretty much the way the album works when Burton is narrating. It would also heighten the dramatic tension if Utton is occasionally struggling to be heard over the raging battle that is going on behind him.

There are two stars on stage in this production, but the bigger of the two is occasionally sidelined by the mixing desk.

Reviews by Pete Shaw

Good Grief

★★★★
The Phoenix Arts Club Facebook Live Page

Live From The Phoenix Flat

★★★★★
Crescent - The Vaults

Over My Dad's Body

★★★★
Greenwich Theatre

Sleeping Beauty

★★★★★
Christmas in Leicester Square

La Clique

★★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

The Blurb

Jeff Wayne's musical version of HG Wells' 'The War of The Worlds', abridged and performed, in a stunning new adaptation for stage, by Pip Utton. 'The Doyen of Fringe one-man shows' (Daily Telegraph).

Most Popular See More

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £36.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Wonderment Magic & Illusion

From £15.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets