The Time Traveller’s Wife
26 October 2023
2.0 out of 5.0 stars
Brand new musical The Timetraveller’s Wife has arrived in the West End. Based on the hugely successful movie, which was in turn based on a very successful novel. I will admit that I have neither read the book, nor watched the film, so I had no expectations going into this show. I just really love musicals and wanted to see a new big West End production for myself.
However, this was probably a bit of a mistake. On several fronts. But let’s start with the less problematic stuff.
If you’re a fan of the film/book, you might enjoy this musical. It’s close to the plot of the film and the acting is fantastic. Just don’t expect too much from the musical part of the show. The songs are quite bland and same-y, there is not a single stand-out number, nor one song lyric I can actually clearly recall after seeing the show. The songs aren’t bad, they’re pleasant enough and the vocal talent is doing brilliant work with the lacklustre material, but nothing from the soundtrack stands out at all. Overall, the music is bland, the singing and acting are great, there’s just not much to work with.
Now for the plot. Where do I even start. It is absolutely beyond me how this is seen as a romantic or joyous story. Love wins the day? More like grooming wins the day…
Henry is an unwilling time traveller who gets flung back and forth in time, usually visiting people he is emotionally connected to at different stages in his life. Clare is about 6 years old when Henry first visits her. This happens shortly after now 20 year old Clare meets 28 year old Henry in chronologically correct time. He repeatedly visits her throughout her childhood and youth, becoming a confidant to an isolated, misunderstood young girl. Yes, this is actually the story. Of course he “accidentally” tells her they get married when she’s still quite young. He repeatedly tells her things about her own future, unwittingly as it may be, making himself a person of authority in her life.
Now, whether he intends it or not, this is textbook grooming. Sure, in chronologically correct time, she is the one who approaches him first, but ultimately, he was around for her entire childhood and youth, becoming a close friend and future husband, of course she goes looking for him when she is older. He has ingrained himself as her closet contact throughout her entire formative years. Throughout the entire time he travels to her past years, he knows they will start dating, getting married, having a child. This dictates how he treats this younger version of his wife, making the grooming effortless and deeply rooted.
The whole story is so unbelievably problematic, it even includes several failed pregnancies for Clare due to the fetuses time travelling out of her uterus and ultimately dying somewhere else in time and space, which is one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever witnessed in a show.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this show at all. As previously mentioned, if you’re a fan of the material, maybe get some cheap seats to give it a go? But with how bland and uninteresting the staging is, and the problematic nature of the content, I can’t in good conscience recommend it to anyone.