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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA

HOME is the venue for yet another dynamic and thought-provoking show

The War of the Worlds at HOME Manchester

By Steve Cooke

Thought provoking, stunning productions are almost becoming commonplace at HOME Manchester. So it was with high expectations that I took my seat for Rhum and Clay Theatre’s production of Isley Lynn’s War of the Worlds.

Expectations were more than met!

Orson Welles’ legendary 1938 radio adaptation of H G Wells’ The War of The Worlds was broadcast in real time as if the invasion of Martians was actually happening. A dance band concert was regularly interrupted by fake news bulletins updating listeners on increasingly horrific events, taken by Orson Welles from H G Well’s seminal science fiction classic.

Legend has it that panic filled the streets of the New Jersey town of Grover’s Mill, the site of the first landing of the fictitious Martian invasion.

However, others point the finger at the print news media of the time for greatly exaggerating reports of mass hysteria.

Interwoven with scenes depicting the original 1938 broadcast we encounter a reporter’s attempts to record a podcast in run-up to the 2016 election in the USA, investigating rumours of a family which was so terrified by the Welles broadcast, they abandoned their teenage daughter and fled.

Unexpectedly she discovers a decent family whose extreme political views have been forged in the heat of fake online reports.

Resonant with our times of conspiracy theories, Trumpism, Brexit, and of course a pandemic; an age when truth and facts seem to be increasingly obscure.

Mona Goodwin, Amalia Vitale, Mathew Wells, and Julian Spooner all take on a multitude of roles, convincingly switching between the residents of Grover’s Mill; the actors behind the radio broadcast; and Orson Welles himself, with all four actors sporting the iconic pipe and breaking the fourth wall at regular intervals.

Directors Hamish MacDougall and Julian Spooner employ a highly effective combination of movement and speech in recreating moments from the original broadcast, illuminating both the public response at the time and modern-day recollections of events.

Pete Maxey and Nick Flintoff’s lighting and Benjamin Grant’s sound effects create the perfect unsettling ambience, evoking paranoia, and terrifying other worldliness.

This production both celebrates the original artistic triumph and presents a contemporary cautionary tale on the misuse of media.

It’s staging and performances are so captivating that time flies by as highly pertinent issues are explored.

HOME is the venue for yet another dynamic and thought-provoking show, stimulating with its high energy and intelligent stagecraft.

On until Sat 02 Oct

I can't wait for the next one!

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