Theatre Review || The Pantaloons’ War of the Worlds

What are the chances of adapting H G Well’s classic science fiction novel, “The War of the Worlds”, into a play with just four actors, a wide assortment of musical instruments and one incredibly bizarre puppet?

About a million to one, I’d say.

Unless of course you’re in the very safe hands of The Pantaloons.

My obsession with The Pantaloons began back in 2015 when my good friend Amanda took me to watch their production of Pride & Prejudice as a birthday treat.  I instantly loved their brand of slapstick comedy and fast paced humour.  I was impressed with how they simultaneously honoured and parodied their source material.  I’ve been an avid fan ever since and War of the Worlds has definitely only served to fuel my devotion.

The War of the Worlds tells the pretty harrowing tale of a martian invasion in Victorian England.  That didn’t stop The Pantaloons from finding plenty of opportunities to infuse their own unique brand of humour.

The Pantaloons are in their element when they’re prancing around the stage making you cry with laughter, but it’s when they switch on the serious drama that you realise just how talented they really are.

In War of the Worlds they didn’t shy away from the serious, dark nature of the original novel.  By the end of the show I’d been bounced between comedy and tense drama so often that I was pretty sure I was suffering from emotional whiplash.  Not everyone can pull that off!

The cast of The Pantaloons varies a little with each show I’ve seen (I think we’re up to number 7 now!) The War of the Worlds saw the return of a couple of familiar faces as well as two new faces that I haven’t seen (or stalked before).

Christopher Smart and Alex Rivers are both firm favourites of mine from previous productions and I’m always excited when I see their names on the cast list.  Christopher Smart did an impeccable job of driving the show as the “Unnamed Narrator”. He was equally as confident with the humour and the more serious elements.

What can I say about Alex Rivers?  She’s the only Pantaloon who’s appeared in every production I’ve watched so far and she never fails to impress.  Whether she’s ramping up the comedy, packing an emotional punch or improvising her socks off, she is just flawless!  If she has a fan club, sign me up!

Chris Coxon primarily played the roles of the Artilleryman and Ogilvy and did a brilliant job of switching between two very different characters from opposite ends of the spectrum.  He managed to slip effortlessly between the humour and pathos in both characters. His performance gave me some serious David Tennant vibes and if you know me, you’ll know there isn’t really a higher compliment I can give.

Fiona McGarvey is a great new addition to the Pantaloons and I hope to see her again in future performances.  She blended seamlessly with the “Pantaloons'” style and her facial expressions were second to none!  (Her impression of the Martian is worth the ticket price on its own.)

As usual, War of the Worlds featured original songs performed live by the cast.  The songs helped to showcase the musical ability of the cast, move along the narrative of the song and were also genuinely hilarious.  I wonder if they’ve ever considered cast recordings?

War of the Worlds was definitely one of the most impressive Pantaloons shows I’ve seen to date, especially thanks to its great range of emotion. It was fast-paced and held on to the mood of the source material without sacrificing that Pantaloons flair.

One of the (many) things I’ve come to love about Pantaloons productions is how each show feels like one of a kind.  Thanks to some pretty rampant ad-libbing and a dash of audience participation you walk out of the theatre with the feeling you’ve watched something truly unique.

The Pantaloons’ production of War of the Worlds is touring the UK until the middle of May and you can find all venue and ticket information on their website.  Go! Now! Check it out and thank me later!

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