Audrey Niffenegger’s bestselling 2003 novel The Time Traveler’s Wife is a box of nightmares wrapped up in loving ruffles of romance. This unsettling, gently sci-fi love story has got under the skin of thousands of readers, spawned two screen adaptations, and now it’s the latest new British musical to take a crack at the West End. It’s a slick creation, with songs by Eurythmics musician Dave Stewart and singer-songwriter Joss Stone, but its breathless pace can’t hide its underlying weirdness.
Its romantic hero Henry isn’t the fun, Doctor Who type of time traveller, the kind able to pop back to Tudor times for a quick hog roast, forward a few millennia to hobnob with some silvery aliens, then back home for tea. Instead, he’s condemned to pick a jumbled path through his own timeline, ricocheting against his will between his older and younger selves – and leaving his poor wife Clare forever waiting; longing for answers she’ll never fully get from him.
David Hunter and Joanna Woodward make a clean-cut, fine-voiced central pairing, but they’re not really given space to fully explore the emotional impact of being trapped in a marriage where nothing is certain, not even being in the same time period for their wedding day. Not to mention the oddness of a relationship that begins with Henry popping up naked and covered in blood in a field outside the 11-year-old Clare’s house, his role eventually shifting from kindly mentor to dashing boyfriend.
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