On the evening of Sunday October 30th 1938, history was made as H.G. Wells’ novel ‘The War Of The Worlds’ (published in 1898) was adapted as a radio drama, and broadcast over the Columbia Broadcasting System in the United States. This broadcast was monumental as not only did it cement narrator Orson Welles’ fame as a dramatic voice performer, but the narrative of the radio drama caused a fairly widespread and real panic throughout various parts of America, with the public believing the serialised and fictional Martian invasion they were hearing on their radios was really taking place, and the world was about to be at the mercy of hostile visitors from Mars.
Throughout the years following, ‘The War Of The Worlds’ became a staple of science-fiction lore, including (but not limited to) a Hollywood film adaption, and a concept musical album by Jeff Wayne, featuring stadium rock and string orchestra elements, with narration and lyrics to carry the story. This album was released in 1978, forty years after the original broadcast that shook the U.S.
Now, eighty years almost to the day, Melbourne based comedians and all-round sci-fi nerds David Innes and Rob Lloyd, (aptly named Innes Lloyd) took it upon themselves to celebrate the seminal broadcast of 1938 by presenting ‘The War Of The Worlds Anniversary Broadcast’ at the Butterfly Club in Carson Place.
As the small upstairs theatrette of the venue filled with forty or so patrons out to enjoy some nostalgic science-fiction on a Monday night, it was clear that from when the house lights went down that Innes and Lloyd had crafted what was a well-thought-out piece. Taking their microphones, and beginning with the traditional ‘War Of The Worlds’ introduction that fans will be all-too-familiar with, the duo then kicked into some of the more memorable narration and dialogue from the original radio drama. The guys’ take on the piece was unique, in the sense that it was accompanied by parts of the score from Jeff Wayne’s 1978 musical adaption sprinkled in throughout. Joining Innes and Lloyd on-stage was Caleb Garfinkle, who complimented the duo with singing and guitar licks from Wayne’s ‘War Of The Worlds’ album. Garfinkle captured the spirit of the synthy, progressive soundtrack very well, as he sang and played tracks such as ‘Thunder Child’, and the recognisable ‘The Eve Of War’, which appropriately began the night. Not only was this a cool take to present to the crowd, but Caitlin Yolland’s lighting design throughout the performance wholly captured the feeling of the narrative, with hues of red and green, really giving that Mars/Martian vibe. Hard to do in a small venue, but Yolland pulled it off very well and it enhanced the goings on on-stage simply and effectively.
It wasn’t just the broadcast highlights and music that kept the crowd entertained. Throughout the performance, Innes and Lloyd quipped in with some of the more funny facts about the original radio drama and the frenzy that followed, and revelled in the silliness of the whole ordeal at points. Telling stories of how the event played out, as well as reminiscing about how ‘The War Of The Worlds’ first came into their lives as budding young sci-fi lovers, it was evident in their on-stage banter and enjoyment of putting on this anniversary special, that not only did Innes and Lloyd know the material, they were passionate about it.
The duo were having fun, and in turn, so was the audience. Even those unfamiliar with the content had something to enjoy here, whether it was the well-done homage to the broadcast, the music that accompanied it, or just the guys having a good time sharing their love of ‘War Of The Worlds’, it was a cool and fun way to spend a Monday night in Melbourne, and an absolute treat for fans. The performance flew by, and before the crowd knew it, it was time to head out to the venue bar for a drink and a laugh.
Innes and Lloyd should be congratulated for taking what is a very niche piece, and still managing to pay a funny and enjoyable homage to it. A well done is also in order for Caleb Garfinkle and Caitin Yolland who assisted the guys in forming a well done evening at the Butterfly Club.