Defying the boundaries of time and love, The Time Traveller's Wife is an enchanting production that will sweep you off your feet and steal your heart. Based on the award-winning novel by Audrey Niffenegger and directed by Bill Buckhurst, this brand new musical adaptation, featuring a book by Lauren Gunderson and music and lyrics by the talented duo of Joss Stone and Dave Stewart, beautifully weaves the bittersweet tale of Clare and Henry into a mesmerising stage production that explores the enduring power of love that binds them together across the ages.
In this version, where the narrative is seen through Clare's eyes, the brilliant Joanna Woodward portrays Clare, serving as our window into this extraordinary story. She meets Henry, brought to life by the talented David Hunter, at different stages of her life. However, there's a unique twist to their love story – Henry is a time traveller, involuntarily and unpredictably leaping through time. This condition creates a complex and challenging relationship as Clare must navigate a life where the man she loves can disappear at any moment and reappear in a different time.
From the opening scene, the audience is transported into a world where love transcends the boundaries of time. The two leads, Woodward and Hunter, who embody characters at different ages across time periods, do so with remarkable finesse. Making such transitions is not an easy feat, and their performances are a testament to their bold and nuance acting choices as well as their talent. Their portrayals never rely on stereotypes or cliches, allowing the audience to connect with the authenticity of their characters. But it is their chemistry that makes the final scene of the musical, with all its heartbreak and tenderness, an unforgettable moment. Credit also needs to be given to the supporting ensemble, who portray various characters throughout the production, adding flourish to the story and contributing to the wonderful harmonies that enriched the musical experience.
The production design by Anna Fleischle, coupled with the video design and animation by Andrzej Goulding, and the lighting design by Rory Beaton and Lucy Carter, work seamlessly together to create multiple gorgeous worlds on stage. The use of projections to indicate the year and the characters' ages make it easy for the audience to follow the intricate time-travelling narrative. The revolving stage is ingeniously used to transition between scenes, from a library to a Thai restaurant, to a school in the '80s. It also adds a layer of symbolism, representing the circular nature of time and how Henry will always keep coming back to find Clare. The recurring bird motif throughout the design, both on stage and in the auditorium, is a beautiful touch, adding to the overall enchantment.
However, it is the mystifying stage illusions by Chris Fisher that will truly leave the audience on the edge of their seats. The moments where Henry disappears and reappears at different parts of the stage create a sense of wonder and awe, making the time travel aspect of the story a magical experience. The pop-rock score, under the guidance of Musical Director Katherine Woolley, resembles that of many contemporary musicals – catchy and perfectly entertaining, featuring some beautiful ballads. The highlights include 'I'm in Control,' and the final number 'Love Wins the Day,' led by Woodward, who delivers a powerhouse performance that is vulnerable yet hopeful, leaving more than a few tears in the audience.
Set against the backdrop of a time-traveling narrative that is both enchanting and emotionally resonant, The Time Traveller's Wife is a beautiful show with so much love to give. It joins the existing musical canon of page-to-stage and film adaptations, but offers the audience something truly unique that doesn't feel like it is ‘yet another one of those shows’. At the heart of it is an inspirational and hopeful story with a simple yet poignant message – "time is nothing”; reminding us of the power of love and the beauty of cherishing every moment. With the festive season just round the corner, this production will surely bring warmth and joy to your heart. If you love time travel and a good romantic story, this remarkable production is not to be missed.
The Time Traveller’s Wife is playing at The Apollo Theatre until 30th March 2024. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.
AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Johan Persson