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The Time Machine: A Virtual Reality

Strap yourselves in. Leave your notions of sanity and predictability at the door.
Performances conducted via Zoom, so watch in the comfort of your own home., Wed 27 May - Sun 21 June 2020

June 11, 2020
Anything goes in the multiverse!

As many performance art companies are adapting to the restrictions of lockdown with live-streamed and pre-recorded entertainment, Creation Theatre has “boldly gone where no man has gone before” with their new immersive Zoom piece, loosely based on H G Wells’ famed science fiction story ‘The Time Machine’, written by Jonathan Holloway and directed by Natasha Rickman.

Originally performed within The London Library back in February, this show, despite its enthusiasm, was subject to the technical limitations of its new chosen medium, with occasional visual and audio glitches, often likening the characters to holograms which in some way was rather apt. The actors interchanging as the lead, The Time Traveller, in different timelines created a very dynamic repartee. Each performer really made an effort with audience participation which lifted the piece from its two-dimensional canvas into the “fourth dimensional space”.

Though somewhat lacking in the presence of H G Wells’ original parables of social classes in the form of races, The Eoli and Morlocks (the Morlocks only appeared in this adaptation when The Traveller and his trusty Computer needed to be chased into a different time frame - somewhat puzzling for a troglodyte species The Traveller discovered in the original story in 802,701 AD - a time period this particular story does not venture to), elements of the story were heavily charged with predictive research, compiled back in October 2019 by The Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, with whom Creation collaborated on this piece. These (rather sensitive) themes included the possibility of viral pandemics wiping out the majority of earth’s population and other science fiction tropes such as AI implants, physiological and physical modification of the human body for warfare, the manipulation of genomes and the increasing destruction of the planet - ideas presented to us by a scientist in 2300 humming Cole Porter’s ‘Anything Goes’. Indeed, it seems anything does go in this ‘Multiverse’.

Seeing as Wells’ story coined the term ‘Time Machine’, I was expecting a machine of sorts, however, here it was attributed to a small briefcase, which actually lent itself more to the character’s ability to ‘time warp’ with such ease without jumping into an “overblown 1960’s sun lounger” (in reference to the 1960’s film adaptation by George Pal). Though it is not recommended for under 12’s, moments of the show felt a little like Horrible Histories, as we were taken to seemingly random time periods in which great advances were made in quantum theory, physics and time travel, with the occasional opportunity to dress up and have a boogie in ‘Gallery View’ to Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’. A strong message of ethical morality and immortality ran throughout while fast tracking the audience through an encyclopaedia of Science and Sci-Fi trivia, culminating in The Time Traveller’s message to “Choose Joy”.

I do wonder if I might have stepped into a ‘Spare Oom’ and fell into another reality altogether… a word of advice, before entering this time warp, take a gander over H G Wells’ original story for some context and possibly a sonic screwdriver if you’re so inclined.

The organiser says:

“Strap yourselves in. Leave your notions of sanity and predictability at the door.”

Radically re-imagined for the digital stage via Zoom The Time Machine – A Virtual Reality will take audiences on a virtual psychedelic journey through the wormhole, somersaulting timelines where thousands of parallel universes will challenge everything they thought they knew.

Written back in October 2019, incorporating predictions of the future from Oxford University’s Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, the play was performed as a site-specific five-week production at The London Library to celebrate the 125th anniversary of HG Well’s iconic sci-fi novel. Sadly cut short as the prophesies in the play unfolded before our very eyes, Creation Theatre are giving people the opportunity to experience a LIVE virtual reality version. This intimate experience will have limited audience capacity for each show and will run for four weeks with a total of 40 performances from 27 May to 21 June.

Adapted by award-winning playwright Jonathan Holloway (BBC Audio Drama Awards, Edinburgh Fringe First Awards, Prix Italia) and directed by Natasha Rickman (Artistic Associate Jermyn Street, Director Twelfth Night Rose Bankside, Assistant Director for the RSC and The Globe).

Natasha Rickman comments: “Now our time travellers can take our audience anywhere in time and space in the blink of an eye. Our production deals with multiple universes - and in this new version each audience member will have their own journey through the show - including an invitation to choose their own ending. Characters will be playing out scenes at exactly the same time but in different digital rooms, with different actors and varying designs - and which path the audience sees will depend on which universes they find themselves thrown into. That is, if they make it through the show without turning into a squirrel or an astronaut. "

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