The Time Traveller's Wife Review - Preview @ Storyhouse
A friend warned me to take tissues. I’d forgotten. My hormones were raging. My mascara was doomed. We were only a few rows from the front and as we took our seats the lovely excited lady next to us told us her niece, Phoebe, was in the show. (I wasn’t expecting her to be the eleven year old powerhouse STAR she was, pulling off complex harmonies like a pro).
As the show begins and the stage spins and is magically transformed between scenes my head spins too, racing to keep up with the complex storyline. I was completely new to the story so it took me a few minutes to figure out the timeline jumping. My head is spinning, spinning, spinning they sing (one of the most beautiful refrains of the show) as I’m drawn in, spinning with them, and the spinning stage, wondering where we go next, or rather 'when'. My eyes are wet wet wet after the touching father/son scene and damnit it’s still the first act.
I was enveloped in the story very quickly, forced to switch on an extra bit of brain to figure out why this Henry didn’t know things a different Henry did and concentrate on the plot being based on non-linear time. My mental effort was rewarded with soaring scores that filled my chest with a big sigh of joyous emotion. The excitement of a new love, proposals and hopes and dreams of the future. I won’t go into too much detail about the plot, other than to say that you must approach it with an open heart. It’s beautifully innocent and human.
The stage is a masterpiece, the scene where Henry describes what it’s like to time travel and performs the contemporary dance in between screens was an illusionary masterpiece! I think my jaw did actually drop as the holes were smashed in time and appeared on the stage. There was a very brief, slightly embarrassing sex scene which was cause for a momentary shuffle depending on who you attend with, but that it happens in a car, on stage was pretty incredible. The staging really was by far the best I’ve seen at Storyhouse.
The real selling point of this show is the music. I find myself feeling frustrated at not being able to come home and stream the album. There were songs I really wanted to hear again. I did perhaps wonder if they needed to grab onto one of those melodic hooks and replay it, regularly, I haven’t got a melody stuck in my head, despite knowing there were tons of catchy refrains that could have been hammered in there with a little more repetition.
The music was elevated by the exceptional voices. I could hear Joss Stone’s influence in the lead female vocalist. Joanna Woodward shone with mind boggling runs and the most eye watering range and power. She was equalled only by Hiba Elchikhe who’s vocal ability was barely tested, and who’s performances left me wanting to hear more. She reminded me of a friend and I really wanted to grab a bottle of wine and spend the evening with her, gossiping and belly laughing.
This really is a story about womanhood and female strength, wrapped around an unconventional love story. It’s about what a woman will put up with for love and where she draws the line. Even though I struggled to feel angry at Henry because of his tragic start in life and because of his inability to control what happens to him, he does ultimately remove Clare’s choice in a plot twist and falls back on that toxic role of unwanted protector when what Clare needs is a partner. Her life is dedicated to managing his and he seems to take that for granted in many ways. One of my favourite lines was as Clare prepares to get married and Charisse tells her to make sure that Henry is a character in HER story and not the other way round. Ultimately, I don’t think that would have been possible without the turn the story takes toward the end.
You should definitely see The Time Travellers Wife. My friend who accompanied me grabbed my arm in tears at one point. My own tears were streaming and the stunned silence in the theatre was punctuated by meaty sniffles as even the hardest of hearts felt that tingly burn in their noses. For me, the women stole the show, relatable and powerful. Voices like angels. From Phoebe, who plays young Clare (no doubt a future lead) to Hiba to Joanna. Alwyne, playing old Clare potentially had the show stopping moment that sparked the biggest flood of tears and Sorelle as Henry’s mother was elegant and gentle. Adapted from an excellent book written by Audrey Niffenegger with a real masterly touch to the music from Joss Stone, unmistakably hers. It is too easy for women to be humble, as Clare says, so I’ll say it, they were the heart of the show.