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  • Writer's pictureNeill Kovacic-Clarke

REVIEW: THE TIME TRAVELLER'S WIFE @ APOLLO THEATRE

🎭 The Time Traveller’s Wife

📍 Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7EZ

🗓 Monday 6th November 2023

⭐️⭐️⭐️️⭐️



LOVE WINS THE DAY


As soon as you walk into the auditorium at London’s Apollo Theatre, there is an undeniable anticipation in the air. It’s almost as if the audience can feel that they are about to witness something a bit special.


The first thing that hits you about The Time Traveller’s Wife is the wonderful imagery, and this is carried throughout the production. From the moment the musical begins you are transported into the world which has been created with what is actually quite a simple set, which rotates and is cleverly utilised, and the phenomenally creative use of animations / projections which is unparalleled. For me these effects really came into their own during the opening of act 2.


The Time Traveller’s Wife is a brand new musical, adapted from the 2003 novel by Audrey Niffenegger, and follows the somewhat complicated love story between Clare and unwilling time traveller Henry, who can travel at any given moment, over which he has no control.



We join the story as Clare enters a library and recognises Henry straight away. Henry on the other hand has no idea who she is! Clare first met Henry when she was 10 and he was 28 and had travelled back in time. At this point in Henry’s timeline he has not yet met Clare so for him, this is the first meeting. It is where their stories actually meet and progress in real time.

Because of the theme of the show, the story jumps around quite a lot and we also change between Henry and Clare’s timelines, rather than just following one. This could make for a very complicated story but actually it’s done incredibly well which means it’s really easy to follow and is never confusing.


Clare is portrayed by Joanna Woodward who gives a commanding performance. Her character is arguably the most complex of the two and Woodward displays a great deal of warmth throughout. Clare experiences a rollercoaster of emotions through the process of the story and Woodward completely understands and projects every single nuance of her feelings beautifully.


She has strong vocals which harmonise wonderfully with those of David Hunter who plays Henry. Hunter is good in the role, but for me I would like the story to delve deeper into his character. It does try to do this in a scene with his father, but everything surrounding Henry seems very surface level and it would be nice for him to have more depth.



Ross Dawes as Henry’s Dad gives a great performance and for me Dawes had the strongest vocals of the entire show. His voice has a beautiful depth and tone which was glorious to listen to.


The Time Traveller’s Wife unfortunately struggles to find itself during act 1. It feels like the book by Lauren Gunderson needs to be tighter and although the songs by Joss Stone and Dave Stewart are enjoyable, I found them all a bit similar and very middle of the road, which regrettably means that fo me they were quite forgettable. There were times where I felt the songs were a little unnecessary and they failed to move the plot along which made me question whether this show should have been a musical or not. A straight play would have maybe enabled the script to round the characters off better.


The production however is a real show of two halves and act 2 opens with an incredibly strong start, and this momentum keeps going until the tragic end. The song Journeyman which opens this act is essentially Henry describing time travel and his feelings surrounding the phenomenon. This piece can only be described as a visual triumph and really signals a shift change in the tempo and feel of the show.



The production feels like it’s really found itself from here, with the script and songs feeling a lot tighter and working in unison wonderfully. I began to really get drawn in and could feel myself becoming emotional at certain points. As someone who doesn’t like to show their emotions in public, it takes a lot for me to be visibly moved by anything, but there were elements of The Time Traveller’s Wife which really penetrated into my being.


The real star of this production is the sensational special effects. When Henry time travels he literally disappears in front of your very eyes, which can only be described as magic and these moments leave you flabbergasted. There are also moments when you think to yourself "how did he get there" when Henry reappears almost instantly in a completely different place, in a completely different costume!


The backstage team here work so hard as there are some ultra quick costume changes for both Henry and Clare, which are immaculately processed. Woodward changes costume and wigs at lightning speed which is spellbinding in itself.



The show also boasts an incredible cast, competently led from the front by Hunter and Woodward. Ava Critchell was sublime and dual-roled as both Young Clare and Henry and Clare’s daughter Alba. She is extremely accomplished for someone so young and portrayed both characters with flawless believability and likability, and although a relatively small character Helena Pipe gave everything to her portrayal of Dr Kendrick in a glorious performance.


Other notable performances came from Tim Mahendran as Gomez and Hibe Elchikhe as Charisse. They are the somewhat comic relief of the piece, but they play the roles with such conviction that they never seem out of place or that they are playing for laughs. They both have sensational singing voices too which was joyous.



Even though I had some misgivings about act 1, by the end of the performance I was completely won over by this musical and was one of the first in the audience to get to my feet at the conclusion when the show received a well deserved standing ovation.


The Time Traveller’s Wife is currently booking at the Apollo Theatre until March 2024 and I’ll definitely be heading back for a second viewing. You can get tickets from just £18 with London Box Office. Head to https://www.londonboxoffice.co.uk/time-travellers-wife-tickets where you’ll currently find some Black Friday savings on selected tickets for the show.


Neill Kovacic-Clarke


All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest, fair and free from influence. Theatre is subjective and it is important to remember that all views expressed are just those of one reviewer.


My ticket for this performance of The Time Traveller’s Wife was gifted by London Box Office who invited me to watch the show in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the content of my review or the star rating given.



CAST AT THIS PERFORMANCE:

David Hunter as Henry; Joanna Woodward as Clare; Tim Mahendran as Gomez; Hibe Elchikhe as Charisse; Ross Dawes as Henry’s Dad; Sorelle Marsh as Henry’s Mum; Alwyne Taylor as The Librarian; Irfan Damani as Clare’s Dad; Alexandra Doar as Clare’s Mum; Daniel George-Wright as Jason / Mark; Helena Pipe as Dr Kendrick; Ava Critchell as Young Clare / Alba

Swings: Billie Hardy; Bobby Windebank; Nathaniel Purnell; Serina Mathew

RUNNING TIME (approx):

2 hours, 30 minutes, including interval


CONTENT WARNINGS:

Loud noises; Sudden blackouts; Gun imagery and gunshot; Themes of loss

Age recommendation 11+


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