The Time Traveller's Wife review - November 2023
This curious narrative unfortunately comes with a forgettable soundtrackIt seems the West End is currently awash with time-travel stories. The classic 80s movie Back to the Future opened as a musical recently, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, with a story centring around the time-turner – a magical device used for time travel – is still going strong. So, when I heard that The Time Traveller’s Wife was opening at the Apollo Theatre, I thought I’d see if this recurring theme was treated similarly on stage.
Adapted by US playwright Lauren Gunderson from the internationally bestselling novel by Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveller’s Wife, is a romantic and heart-wrenching story of a woman who falls in love with a time traveller. Henry (David Hunter) has a genetic disorder which sees him travel through time and space without being able to control when it happens. His wife, Clare (Joanna Woodward), loves him, but must sit back and suffer as he disappears at crucial moments, including when they’re about to get married.
Showing Henry’s disappearances and reappearances in Clare’s life non-chronologically could have been complicated on stage, but the story is easy to follow. Essentially, it is a straightforward romance with a twist, but the curious narrative unfortunately comes with a surprisingly forgettable soundtrack.
Written by 00s singer Joss Stone and Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, high hopes were had that this songwriting tour de force would come up with catchier melodies and stronger lyrics. With a mix of upbeat pop tunes and belting ballads, none of them stuck in my head once I had left the auditorium.
The pivotal moment in the story where Henry is on the cusp of telling Clare something that could destroy their relationship, however, was memorable. With a song performed by the protagonists' couple friends Charisse (Hiba Elchikhe) and Gomez (Tim Mahendran), the sidekicks had tangible charisma whenever they were on stage, and provided much of the humour throughout the show.
The stage illusions by Chris Fisher – who is the Magic Associate for the Harry Potter play – impressed. Henry disappeared with a deafening bang in the crackle of light without even the most eagle-eyed being able to tell what had happened. The brilliant projection work by Andrzej Goulding which opened the second half of the show was also one of the highlights, as Henry soared and crashed his way across the stage and through time.
Despite the awe-inspiring visuals, The Time Traveller’s Wife doesn’t bring anything new to the West End. The show is fun to watch and is poignant at times, with questions around mortality raised, but these aren’t explored in depth. However, director Bill Buckhurst has surely given fans of this story an enjoyable evening at the theatre.
Reviewed by Alice Bzowska
6 November 2023, Apollo Theatre
WAS £35.00NOW £25.00
Booking until 30 March 2024