A Time Traveller’s Guide to the Present, if it were really used as a guide to the present, would be a very confusing one to say the least. Doug Harvey is ambitious in his attempt to incorporate multiple different characters, using multiple accents and position himself in multiple different time periods, and the show certainly covers a lot of ground.
From the offset, the energy shown by Harvey as a one-man performer is very impressive, and he starts the show with a dramatic opening including excellent and humorous use of voiceover to set the scene well.
The pace of the play is rapid from the start, and we quickly find ourselves being thrust into a world where people are disappearing due to lack of connection with each other. Using complicated and made-up jargon to describe the situation and the technology in the play, Harvey seems to get a bit caught up in an alternative universe he has created. Although the premise of saving the world with limited time to do so is clear, the actual details of this situation are thrown out to the audience without anyone actually being able to catch them.
Nevertheless, the show deals with some undoubtedly very human and relatable themes of family, relationships and in particular, technology.
Centring itself around the theme of human connection, the play attempts to prove to the audience the importance of reaching out to your friends and family, and the significance of our pasts in defining our future. While some parts of this commentary on modern life was very effective and emotive, much of it was lost on the general audience member.
The more effective elements, such as the exploration of the main character’s suffering relationship with his father, and the use of his time travelling ability to reconnect with his past memories, do not make up for the elements which are confused.
Doug Harvey is ambitious in the number of characters he presents, although none of these characters are particularly well developed or interesting. There are some funny additions, such as a cowboy pilot and a humorous, if overexaggerated, caveman figure. However, the reproduction of sexist stereotypes in the presentation of some of these characters took some of the fun of the performance away, as it appears they were presented merely for cheap laughs, rather than a genuine attempt at propelling the already convoluted storyline.
Although the show was entertaining, unfortunately, Harvey was over-ambitious in his attempt to create a parallel universe in 50 minutes and as a result, the show is confusing and often not very effective in its goal.
Time Traveller’s Guide to the Present is showing at theSpace on North Bridge (Perth Theatre) August 23-27 at 19:30.
Image: courtesy of Time Traveller’s Guide to the Present, provided to The Student as press material.