The War of the Worlds

New Fisher Theatre Company at the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

Halloween came to the Maddermarket on Friday night with this ambitious production of Orson Welles' 1938 radio interpretation of the HG Wells' tale of alien invasion.

Famously when it was first broadcast in an America already jumpy at war scares from Europe, it is alleged to have caused mass panic in the New York area with thousands jumping in their cars and heading for the hills, so convincing was the depiction.

To us in a more media-savvy time, that may seem hilariously naïve. But even 65 years later one can see just why this was such an important production in the history of broadcasting.

Its themes of terror and catastrophe stalking our otherwise settled civilisation could not really be more topical in the light of 9/11.

Producing a radio play for the theatre has its obvious limitations. But director Andrew Selwyn-Crome, who also plays Welles, and his cast are to be congratulated for giving text due deference but not being afraid to play it with a pace that shows off the strength of the piece.

The dramatic lighting, dry ice and slides helped keep visual interest for the audience.

Most Read

In this he is well served by a very strong cast of James Mangan, Darren France, Michael Peck, Tony Walton and Nigel Harvey.

Today, this production of The War of the Worlds is mainly famed for its 'hoax' connotation, proving Welles' reputation as an arch faker - something he was in later years keen to play up to. But the power and sheer elegance of the words prove Welles at the height of his powers was without peer and make this a version well worth reviving.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter