Review: War of the Worlds at the Brighton Centre

December 17, 2012

The War of the Worlds is a spectacular multi-media adaptation of H. G. Wells’ sci-fi classic. It’s a virtual assault on the senses which is part musical, film spectacular, concert and audiobook. With a giant fire-breathing Martian war machine.

The show – Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds: The New Generation – to give it its full title, has been rejigged from its previous incarnation. The journalist who narrates the events of the Martian invasion of earth is now played by a digital Liam Neeson in holographic form. This was the only disappointment in the show in that I was expecting some kind of floating 3D apparition – a bit like the one R2D2 produced for Princess Leia. The ‘hologram’ in War of the Worlds is a resolutely flat (at least as seen from the balcony) image projected onto a plastic screen.

Throughout the show’s two hours we see events unfold on a massive screen which is practically twice as wide as the CinemaScope format. Fantastic state-of-the-art computer animation brings the Martians realistically to life – think Doctor Who but with a bigger budget. The film brilliantly splices modern special effects to old silent footage of England – parks, trains stations, quiet villages – to create something genuinely eerie and strangely affecting. In front of the screen a sizeable orchestra (conducted by Wayne himself) takes centre stage which makes the evening feel more of a concert performance than a musical where the musicians are usually hidden in the pit.

Marti Pellow, Jason Donovan, Kerry Ellis and the Kaiser Chiefs’ Ricky Wilson give spirited performances. For sheer bravado the stand out amongst these must be Wilson as the slightly deranged artilleryman who sees the catastrophe as way of starting civilisation again from scratch.

War of the Worlds is defiantly a one-of-a-kind entertainment which defies categorisation. It succeeds partly through using every device possible to keep the audience enthralled and partly, of course, through its brilliant score. Everybody now: “The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one he said. The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one. Yet still they come!!!!’

Final performance this evening, December 17, at 8pm.

For more details and tickets click here.