Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

The First Time Machine

Run Ragged Productions , Chapter, Cardiff , January-23-14
The First Time Machine by Run Ragged Productions This is an imaginative feel-good evening, full of warmth, charm and humour.

Brothers Jem and Aidan Treays, with musical support from Greg Hall, and a guest appearance from Jemís daughter Ella, use dance, movement, dialogue and song, to explore their relationship with their now deceased family and the concept of time.

The heart of the show is the brotherís talking about a book called El Anacronopete, which, they claim, was the invention of the very first time machine, before H D Wells and certainly long beforeí Dr Whoís Tardis.

The brotherís investigate the book for how to operate the time machine and they begin a series of adventures back in
time. The intention is to go back to the 1880s to the time their great , great grandfather Enrique Gaspar, wrote his novel, but Aidan fiddles the settings so he can try to go back to see his grandmother again. Along the way the brothers own childhood is traced by old photographs on what look like the sails of a Chinese junk at the back of the set (perhaps because at one stage the family lived in Macau) and then old photos and images from the lives of their parents, grandparents and back to the time of Enrique.

While discussing theories of time in a one-hour family show may seem rather ambitious, the performers use a simple but effective set populated by many of their great, great grandfatherís original possessions and clothes to tell us the family story and also make us wonder about our relationship with the near and distant past.

Two splendid sections of the show are the projection of the young girl dancing onto the inside of the lid of an old suitcase while Jem interacts with her, producing an old teddy bear that waves goodbye to her as the lid closes and then the use of a large paper puppet that represents Enrique as he writes the last words of the novel. It was an inspired use of lighting and video by John Collingswood.

Directed by James Williams and designed by Saz Moir, the show starts with the idea that Aidan is arriving (late) for a rehearsal with Jem and so they are exploring ideas of what to include in the final performance. This gives the brothers plenty of opportunities from humour including light banter and rivalry between the two boys.

The dance movements are a combination of elegant fluidity and athletic masculinity that both illuminate the story and also drive the plot along, with particularly clean and sharp duets. The dance also includes the brotherís Spanish roots, so we have flamenco from Aidan, and the familyís time in the Far East.

The result is a highly entertaining work of dance and theatre from Jem Treaysí young Run Ragged Productions company. Their first show Out of the Box in 2011was aimed at three to eight year olds. The First Time Machine is possibly more suitable for children a little older but there were younger children in the Chapter audience who remained engaged with the odd bit of fidget factor.

Riverfront, Newport February 1; Borough Theatre, Abergavenny, February 4; Pontardawe Arts Centre, February 6 and Muni Arts Centre, Pontypridd, February 8.

Reviewed by: Mike Smith

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