Jonathan Holloway wrote his loose adaptation of HG Wells’ science fiction tale The Time Machine in November 2019, so any parallels with current events are purely coincidental.
From 1896 until his death in 1946, Wells was an active member of the London Library, a building filled with bibliographic treasures. It emerges that 50 years in the future, the world is beyond repair and receiving ‘palliative care’ due to climate change and global pandemics.
Directed by Natasha Rickman, the production lacks narrative clarity and it’s like attempting to follow the ramblings of an eccentric whose point is lost in a surfeit of faffing and deliberately clunky 1990s-style computer graphics.
Paul (PK) Taylor’s version of the Time Traveller (a role shared between four performers) is credibly dishevelled, looking as if he’s got carried away at Studio 54 in the 1970s. It’s questionable whether he has really seen the things that he claims or if he’s a drug-addled fantasist.
The production is most effective when exploring the library’s nooks and crannies and mixture of old and new architecture. The rather scary grill floors of the Science room are effectively disorientating and it’s appropriate that there’s a (The) Times Room containing every edition of that newspaper since 1813.
It’s impossible not to take the consequences described seriously at a time of such anxiety and when it’s unknown if such events will be allowed to take place soon. More flippantly, the library would be the perfect place in which to be quarantined but the storytelling here has got lost in the stacks.