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The Time Machine

THE TIME MACHINE, by Frank Gauntlett, based on the novella by H.G. Wells, in the Playhouse, NIDA Theatres, Kensington, 11th April – 2nd May.

As the Time Traveller, Mark Lee, as a soloist, narrates the first adventure into the future, found in the H.G.Wells novella, THE TIME MACHINE. The Time Traveller moves to the year 802,701, where he encounters the surface survivors of the planet, the Eloi, a ‘tribe’ of innocent child-like vegetarians, and later, the sub-terranean counter-tribe the Morlocks, ape-like predators, who are terrorised by fire and live in darkness and eat the flesh of the Eloi. It seems that the Eloi’s were ‘farmed’ by the Morlocks.

Written in serial form THE TIME MACHINE was first published in book form in 1895. It reflects the Dying Earth genre, as a study of the end of time, the degeneration of the human species. H.G. Wells, has often been signified as the creator of the Science Fiction genre, although the earlier work of French writer, Jules Verne, (e.g. JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH – 1864, or TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA – 1871) preceded it significantly in time.

On a Set Design of spare invention, or attractiveness (Derrick Cox), with illustrations, of disparate styles for Back Projections (John Kratovil), accompanied by a pragmatic Sound Design (Michael Waters), it is the inventive shifting Light Design (Martin Kinnane), along with the committed energy and skill of the actor, Mark Lee, that keeps the kinetics of the storytelling, that seemed to be evoked by the playwright, Frank Gauntlett, in stylistic verbal mirroring of the Wellesian Victorian language/argot, moving forward. The language style could be an obstacle for the ease of communications as a contemporary theatrical experience for some, despite the determination and grasp of the dramatics of the text that are embraced by Mr Lee. In fact, the best of this experience, in the Playhouse at NIDA, is the watching of Mr Lee grapple with such textual relish Mr Gauntlett’s play, otherwise, it could be a fairly unmoving and dry time spent.

One can only ask why present this THE TIME MACHINE, today? In the Producer’s note in the program, Adam Liberman, tells us:

Mark Lee first approached me about producing THE TIME MACHINE, in 2016 after seeing my production of BLONDE POISON, starring Belinda Giblin. He said that he had performed THE TIME MACHINE some time ago, loved it and believed it deserved another go. Saying anything “deserves” something always makes me suspicious, but knowing Mark’s pedigree in Australian acting I was quite chuffed by the approach and willing to see where it would lead me. The script would be the key. …

The script is indeed the key and this script did not seem to unlock much that we didn’t know before, either about the H.G. Wells novel, its relevance for our time (which it could have) or Mr Lee’s potential as an actor. I reckon that Mr Liberman’s suspicion about the “deserving” of reviving this play ought to have been better regarded by him, before embarking. THE TIME MACHINE was Directed by Gareth Boylan.