April 17th, 2006


War of the Worlds

On Thursday 13th April, I, my sister and her husband went down to Bournemouth to see Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds. This musical version of the book came out in the late seventies, and if you go to this site there's a popup of the music which should remind you if you can't recall it.

It was in the Windsor Hall at the BIC (Bournemouth International Centre) which seats over 4000, and it was completely full. We had some excellent tickets in the last row of the raked terrace. Apart from a good view, you had the added bonus of the seats vibrating because of the power of the music :-)

The presentation of the performance was very clever, with the musicians on stage, individual singers coming on for the main parts, a Martian Machine which landed in the middle of the stage from above, excellent use of lighting techniques, and a screen at the back. The projection consisted of an interesting mixture of CGI, paintings, photographs (both original Victorian prints and digitally altered landscapes), and live performances. There was also an animated mask of Richard Burton to go along with his original narration. The mask wasn't completely successful for me since the animation of the face concentrated on the lips and left the upper part of the face mostly still. However hearing his voice was wonderful and it's really an intrinsic part of this version.

The music was amazing. The popup mentioned above only gives a faint idea of how powerful it sounds in live performance, not just the volume but the richness of the tones. The performers are a mixture of a classical orchestra and a rock band which fuse together so well that it's only at the end where the two sides stand to take individual bows, while the other half continues playing that you actually appreciate the separate strands. (Unless you're musical, in which case you may have noticed it a lot earlier!)

The whole performace was a real feast for eyes and ears.