Review: Jeff Wayne’s The War of The Worlds Cardiff – The Life Begins Again Tour Saturday 26 March 2022 Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
Somehow, Jeff Wayne’s The War of The Worlds live show has completely bypassed me my entire life. It’s probably because it’s an arena show and Bristol doesn’t have an arena – a politically sensitive issue in the city.
I booked two tickets, easily the price of a term time holiday – just a week before the matinee on Saturday 26 March 2022. My son – who will not read books unless they are Doctor Who stories – expressed an interest in the show having been gripped by H. G. Wells’ original story that came up during his school work. All I knew of the story is from the 2005 movie starring Tom Cruise.
From the moment you walk into the arena auditorium and until it starts, you are left with a growing sense of unease thanks to the brilliant sound design, an ominous presence in the background. As we get closer to the start time, the sound is accompanied by projections of illustrations.
I’m led to understand that The War of The Worlds stage show has evolved over the last 40 years and I was left curious about how the performance has been altered and adapted over that time.
It’s now two days since I saw the show. I feel a sense of sadness that I will never see this show for the first time again. That’s because it’s one of the most brilliantly engaging, entertaining and gripping live events I’ve ever seen.
The music is just ingenious. You can feel the narrative develop through the music alone. It’s easy to understand why the 1978 LP captured imaginations and grew into the monster that it is today. The whole concept was ahead of its time, as was Wells’ original book, and on this sunny afternoon in Cardiff, it certainly remains undated and fresh.
From the moment the heat rays activated to the emergence of the Tripods – there is a giant tripod on the stage which comes alive and shoots flames at the audience – you are on the edge of your seat, immersed in the story.
At the core heart of the show is the orchestra and band playing the music, but it blends with other mediums including effects, lighting, sound design, projection and automation to build what feels a lot like an immersive experience.
It’s a very unique piece of work, somewhere between cinema, theatre and immersive events. You feel the heat from the flames, you are covered in falling leaves. From the ceiling, a bridge lowers and cast literally perform above your head.
Whilst I had no idea and was not fussed about who was in the cast when I booked, it was packed full of famous performers, all giving excellent performances.
Kevin Clifton was The Artilleryman, Duncan James was Parson Nathaniel, Claire Richards was Beth, The Parson’s Wife, Nathan James was The Voice of Humanity, Anna-Marie Wayne was Carrie, The Journalist’s Fiancée and Justin Hayward reprised his original role as The Sung Thoughts of The Journalist. Liam Neeson also returned as The Journalist, whose performance is in 3D holography.
Jeff Wayne himself conducted the Black Smoke Band and ULLAdubULLA Strings.
Between cast, creatives, crew and musicians, it was an absolutely incredible performance and definitely on my list of ones to watch again. And probably again after that.
It’s hard not to draw parallels from Wells’ 1898 novel to current affairs. Amongst its varying themes is Invasion, destruction and slaughter, with refugees desperately seeking safety and being burned alive in the street by weapons from the sky. Whilst Life Begins Again after two years of global pandemic, perhaps the human suffering in different locations around the globe right now, including Ukraine, makes this story even more horrific.
For more information about the show or to book future tour dates, visit: https://www.thewaroftheworlds.com/