Review Round-Ups

Critics battle with The War of the Worlds

A stage adaptation of Jeff Wayne’s classic opened in the West End last night

Daisy Bowie-Sell, WhatsOnStage


"If you're even considering buying a ticket toThe War of the Worlds, you've probably grown up with the album, and you might even be looking for something a little OTT. If you are, this show will satisfy you no end. This is high-end cheese, and at points it's delightfully entertaining as such."

"Apart from Michael Praed – and his hologram counterpart Liam Neeson – who both play the Journalist, most of the leads are confined to a tiny bit of acting, with one main song. Praed and David Essex – Essex plays The Voice of Humanity – are the only ones who can both sing and act. Noughties pop-star Daniel Bedingfield is wooden as the Artillery Man (a part Essex once played), but his vocal range is made for song "Brave New World"."

Mark Lawson, Guardian


"[David] Essex and others… are required to turn up at the theatre every night. Luckier is Liam Neeson who, between songs and dances, appears on a drop-down screen as a hologram filmed for a 2012 arena tour of the production, gracefully narrating passages from the book."

"Despite the fact that the only Martian we see resembles an olive with cellulitis, the show is often visually spectacular – and its two big numbers reliably deliver – but the weakness of the venture is that it seems likely to make many theatregoers impatient to experience the novel or the Wayne recording instead."

Tim Auld, Telegraph


"It should be a winner – but it’s not… The director, Bob Tomson, does his best to bring it to life, but struggles to create human drama in a script that’s better imagined than staged."

"In the first half, when the Martians blow the humans to smithereens, the deafening music lacks any tonal variation, it’s like being hit over the head again and again with a hammer. There are balletic moments, but, too often, it’s just scared men and women writhing artily on stage or leaping about as if told to act confused and horrified against a CGI backdrop of juicy, green tentacular aliens."

"…I think the best thing to do with The War of the Worlds is to lie on the floor at home, put both of your speakers on either side of your head in the dark, crank it up to eleven, and imagine the frightening world Jeff Wayne created through his music."

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard


"What’s fancifully billed as "one of the starriest casts the West End has seen" is one of the most motley. David Essex, a member of the original studio line-up, has the unenviable task of representing the Voice of Humanity. Daniel Bedingfield as The Artilleryman hits most of his high notes but looks as stiff as a Lego figure and so demonstrative is Jimmy Nail as crucifix-wielding Parson Nathaniel, you sense he’d like to be visible from outer space."

"Michael Praed as the journalist and Madalena Alberto as his fiancée are a little more poised, as is Heidi Range, formerly of the Sugababes. Ironically, only Liam Neeson as the narrator — appearing on video — seems a rounded character."

Anne Treneman, The Times

0 stars

"The star performers run the gamut from excruciating (Jimmy Nail) to passable (Michael Praed). David Essex is the "Voice of Humanity" which, for humanity, is not good news."

"So, it’s carnage, and the Martians haven’t even arrived. When they do, cue giant nose-cone capsule with giant weird octopus thing with teeny skinny legs emerging from it. Martians, if you are reading this, sue! Soon, after way too much Liam, who has now also started to appear as a hologram behind a desk, we see the "Martian Fighting Machine", a giant Zimmer frame with boggling insect eyes come to "life". (Martians, sue!)"

The War of the Worlds runs at the Dominion Theatre until 30 April.