Wednesday, July 11, 2018

War of the Worlds/Tourmaline

War of the Worlds. Radio script by Howard E.Koch from the novel by H.G.Wells. Directed by P.J.Williams. Tourmaline. Based on the novel by Randolph Stow. Adapted by Emma Gibson. Directed by Adam Broinowski. 
Production designs Tiffany Abbott. Sound design Kyle Sheedy. Lighting design Linda Buck. Acting ensemble Craig Alexander, Breanna Barker, Christopher Samuel Carroll, Ylaria Rogers, Martin Searles and Cameron Thomas.
The Street Theatre, July 7-8.

Sometimes a piece of good stuff comes in very quietly like this ambitious double bill. Two novels in one night: Randolph Stow’s Tourmaline adapted by Emma Gibson and H G Wells’ War of the Worlds as reimagined in 1938 by the Americans.

Both pieces are about invasions. War of the Worlds is a blow by blow account of an extraterrestrial one. Tourmaline could be said to be about the legacies of invasion in Australia. And both are radio adaptations, which meant the audience see the sound and musical effects being made.  

Gibson’s adaption of Tourmaline under Adam Broinowski‘s direction gave rise to a warmly lit dust bowl of a west Australian outback town, full of characters with broad brimmed hats and feet that stepped into boxes of dust and gravel and rough hands that chipped shovels against heaped up chains and pavers and clinked glasses in the town pub. Lots of beer but little water. It’s a story about a water diviner stranger and deception and relationships between the old inhabitants and the new. Not altogether easy to follow unless you know the novel but loads of atmosphere and some wonderfully laid back performances.

War of the Worlds is better known although the nineteenth century London settings of the original novel have been pushed out since Orson Welles and adapter Howard Koch set it in 1930s America and set it up as a live Halloween broadcast interrupted increasingly by reports of the Martian invasion. Agreement about the degree to which this panicked the listeners varies.

The adaptation perceptively retains some of Wells’ language and his stark warnings about human complacency.

Director P.J. Williams kept the tone tense but cool as the radio actors went about the performance of this brief take on Wells’ darkly detailed original.  Again, the atmosphere was stressed and sensibly there was no attempt to send up the old radio forms and practices.

Canberra Rep and CADA have also done stage radio in recent months. Now will somebody please take on Charles Chilton’s immortal 1950s radio adventure Journey Into Space?

Alanna Maclean