REVIEW: War of the Worlds shows off talents of teens

Reviewed by Taryn Utiger

A talented troupe of budding young stars have landed on a stage in New Plymouth, and they’ve brought some strange martians with them.

War of the Worlds – The Panic Broadcast has been playing at 4th Wall Theatre this week and it showcases not only the most famous radio story of all time, but also the variety of skills some Taranaki teenagers possess.

Produced by the Sacred Heart Girls’ College Performing Arts Department and directed by Loren Armstrong, this show is nearly entirely put together by students. They act, they do the lighting, they run the sound, they produce the special effects, they are the live backing orchestra, and they’re even the ushers for the night.

The final product really is a testament to the hard work and blossoming skills that these youngsters have.

From the moment you enter 4th Wall Theatre you are met with Halloween candy, beautiful and strange UFOs hanging from the ceiling, ushers dressed in vintage costumes and a feeling of excitement.

The highlights of the performance are many and include the wonderful special effects team who produce a live soundscape on stage using everything from mugs and bells, to tins and sheets of iron. Lillian Brown, Abigail Churches and Molly Powell make a fantastic and creative team, and they really help to bring this show to life.

The vintage commercials are another standout, and they provide not only a lovely interlude to the main story, but an increasing about of humour. Miah Francis is particularly wonderful in the commercials, with her comic timing, and voice and accent work being absolutely on point.

The acting of Samantha Lusty as Professor Pierson and Petra Harris as Orsen Welles is also a highlight, and both of these young ladies really manage to showcase just how talented they are.

Eve Hagenson and Ella Bartlett give War of The Worlds – The Panic Broadcast extra depth with their beautiful singing voices. In fact, the show is at its absolute best when their singing acts as a soundtrack to an onstage tableau and the voice-over work of the cast. These moments are magic, really impressive, and excellently handled.

The ensemble work manages to show of the versatility of the cast, and they easily go from playing soldiers, to townsfolk, and then to reporters. They really shine as bomber pilots, and the staging of this scene is inventive and incredibly effective. They also work to produce some amazing shadow play scenes, which are absolute joy to watch.

As they grow older the girls will gain better control of their vocal work and their ability to build tension and pace, and this will enable them to shine even more.

Each student in this production does a wonderful job and they should be very proud of what they have achieved. They should also be grateful to work under a professional practitioner like Loren Armstrong, and in a professional theatre like 4th Wall Theatre.

Brett and Raewyn Greig of 4th Wall need to be congratulated for working alongside the next generation of actors and theatre technicians in Taranaki and giving them an experience that they wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere.

War of The Worlds – The Panic Broadcast makes it clear that the talented youngsters of Taranaki have the power to take over the world. Whether that be the theatre world, the radio world, or the actual world.

War of the Worlds – The Panic Broadcast
Directed by Loren Armstrong
Presented by Sacred Heart Girls’ College
Staged at 4th Wall Theatre
Reviewed by Taryn Utiger