Friday 3 November 2023


Theatre review: The Time Traveller's Wife at the Apollo Theatre

Based on the book of the same name by Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveller's Wife at its core is the love story between Henry and Clare. The twist? Henry is a time traveller and Clare first meets him when she's still a child. In his own chronological timeline, however, Henry doesn't meet Clare until they're both in their 20s. Are you confused yet? Not only that, but Henry cannot control when he travels – making it very hard for him to live his life as he doesn't know when – and for how long – he is gone.  

Of one thing there is no doubt: The Time Traveller's Wife musical at the Apollo Theatre (with a book by Lauren Gunderson and music & lyrics by Joss Stone and Dave Stewart) looks spectacular. The combination of projections, moving panels, trap doors, light design, and body doubles make Henry's time jumps very effective and impressive. There are a few moments where him moving behind a fellow cast member or set piece is a bit too obvious and it makes the audience anticipate another disappearing act, but overall it's very well done. The first scene of act 2 in particular is incredibly innovative, even if the staging and sound design during that sequence do feel slightly at odds with the rest of the show. 

And David Hunter (Kinky Boots, Once) really embodies the physicality of Henry's time travels. He flits in and out of scenes, running on and off the stage and manages to not be out of breath in those moments where he's observing events from the past or having a conversation with Clare at various stages in her life. Joanna Woodward's (Pretty Woman, Beautiful) Clare is less frantic and grounds the musical in what seems a more chronological timeline of events (even if with her we also move from present to past and back again). This is much needed so the audience doesn't get completely lost amidst the story. 

They're well supported by Tim Mahendran (& Juliet, The Midnight Gang) and Hiba Elchikhe (Everybody's Talking About Jamie, Lift) as their best friends Gomez and Charisse, who both add oodles of charm and some solid comedy moments into the mix. All four of these actors are incredible performers and have shown us their musical theatre chops at length in previous shows. But while their singing performances were as solid as can be, the score by Eurythmics' Dave Stewart and Grammy-winner Joss Stone was surprisingly forgettable. The melodies are sweet but all started to blur together and not a single song stayed with me until the curtain call. 

And despite Henry and Clare being at the heart of the story – and one or both of them being in every single scene – it also didn't feel like we truly understand what makes them soul mates. Their relationship seems superficial at best and creepy at worst – given that an adult Henry first met Clare when she was just a child (similar to an issue I had with Aspects of Love, which played in the theatre next door to the Apollo earlier this year). The fact that both are of similar ages in their chronological timelines doesn't take away from that somewhat twisted history. Perhaps the relationship between Henry and Clare was more gradual and natural in the book – but the theatre staging has a bigger focus on the special effects and doesn't quite hit the empathetic mark there. 

The Time Traveller's Wife at the Apollo Theatre is a feast for the eyes with its illusions and has some really solid central performances, making the most of a tricky book. The story is intricate and the musical adaptation has to condense the source material down to a slick 2.5 hours (including interval). But while the cast do their very best with the material they're given, unfortunately something is lacking to bring the full breadth of emotions and complexity of this love story to life on the stage. 

The Time Traveller's Wife is playing at the Apollo Theatre until 30 March 2024 and you can book your tickets here.

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