Wednesday, December 7

The Time Machine: A Radical Feminist Reworking – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Nearing the end of a one-month tour, Feminist Theatre group Jordan and Skinner bring their own take on the H.G. Wells classic tale to Edinburgh’s Traverse No. 1 Stage.

On a well-attended opening night, the first priority is to find a seat amongst the predominantly young and female audience. Not easy – squeezing past tightly drawn calves whilst trying not to fall down the cliff of heavily raked seating ultimately, happily, pays dividends. Note to self – come early next time or bring rope!

At the start of the play one of the cast asks the audience, ‘if you had a time machine where would you go?’. An interesting question. ‘You would go to visit your favourite painter, or ancient Greece or Rome maybe, you wouldn’t go to the future, it’s going to be sh*t!’. Yes…. well, set against rising interest rates, illegal wars and global warming, not to mention the cost of living crisis and Winter on our doorstep, I think we can all agree on that at the moment.

Director, Caitlin Skinner wastes no time with this one act story which follows the trials and tribulations of four females in a bunker readying themselves and provisioning themselves for the coming-apocalyptic future. As well as food, water and energy sources they have also frozen all they need from the male of the species. Between bickering, they have to decide whose womb will be used for the carefully harvested sperm, to foster the next generation. This could be thought-provoking, dark and funny, but in something of an opportunity missed it ultimately comes across as laddish and too light-hearted.

Whilst the four jape around in the bunker they also take turns to wear an outsized top hat in portraying Wells’ alter ego as he zooms forward in his time machine to 802,701AD. Here he discovers a two-tier future world where the weightless and insubstantial surface dwelling Eloi are served by the lumpen below ground Morlocks, an underclass of hardworking, light-hating cannibals.

It is hard to see any real connection between the four ladettes in the bunker and Wells’ character and his experiences, which are portrayed with realism and with some nice touches as Wells clambers around on the well-made set as he first discovers then frantically escapes from the Morlocks.

The uneven, patchy nature of the piece shows it’s devised upbringing. Unfortunately, there is no clear signature hand at work and this ultimately turns the play into a series of humorous sketches revolving around the different character traits, like the erroneous, ‘baby olympics’ skit parodying races between pregnant women.

Whilst there is no denying the gameness of Amy Conachan, Melanie Jordan, Gabrielle Monica Hughes and the very watchable, animated and feisty Itxaso Moreno as the four seeking to create a brave new world, it is not the unity but the differences between them that lives longest in the memory.

Reviewer: Greg Holstead

Reviewed: 3rd November 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★