The Time Machine
Adapted by Robert Lloyd Parry
The Lowry, 27 June 2013
Paradoxical it may be, but as you watch and listen time seems to stand still.
This is because Robert Lloyd Parry’s monologue is anything but ‘mono’ – a spellbinding performance, it is as colourful and flavoursome as one of those weird pies that the Victorians were so partial to. You know, the kind with three different kinds of meat in them and an egg or two in the middle.
In other respects too this theatrical adaptation impressed. Splendid, astutely judged lighting effects were in evidence. The time machine itself was a thing of beauty, not quite a steampunk contraption, no clockwork cogs intersecting and in motion, but beautiful nonetheless. The set included a water fountain like the one to be found in Alexandra Park, though not as decrepit as the one there: the council really should do something about that sharpish. But above all there was Parry, an engaging narrator, a mobile and active presence on stage. It was wonderfully paced, a triumph.
Something I didn’t quite realise until seeing the play is that Wells’s novella is ethnography of sorts: a gentleman scientist reporting back on what he has found in a strange land. You could call it Time and the Other, Victorian style. In Geertz’s well-worn phrase, it is concerned with experience near and experience far: about human possibility and what it means to be human.
What’s most interesting is that despite his condescending humour and disdain toward one people and his horror and revulsion when encountering another, the time traveller cannot think of them as wholly alien. He recognises they’re human and feels a kinship and even empathy toward them. And in the narrative you can discern the desperate soul who was driven to write Mind at the End of Its Tether.
Mind, another more mundane thought occurs: if this fellow had travelled around the country a bit in the traditional way (i.e. using locomotion) he might have found that there were more than two (and perhaps better) sorts of human beings in this future world. But then there would have been no story – or a different, happier one.
The Time Machine is showing at The Lowry until 29 June. Further details can be found here.