Triffids!, Midlands Arts Centre – Review

Arguably the most famous British sci-fi novel from the 1950s, John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids has been adapted for film, radio and television. Much like HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds, the ‘invaders’ are not the primary focus of the narrative. Rather, what is important is how the presence of this unique flora ‘disrupts’ the world as we know it – irrevocably displacing mankind as the apex species and a catalyst for ‘civilisation’ to re-evaluate its values.

L-R: Jules Bushell, Jill Dowse, Laurence Hunt, Matt Tarling and Catherine Church /    Photo © Andi Sapey

Platform 4’s Triffids! distils the esssence of the postwar novel into a prescient, engaging show. As an example of ‘gig theatre’, Triffids! effortlessly conveys the world of the Wyndham’s chronicle through songs, without ever once feeling like exposition. Projections behind the performers also give a flavour of the world ‘before’ and ‘after’ the ‘bright lights’…

L-R: Catherine Church, Jules Bushell, Jill Dowse, Laurence Hunt and Matt Tarling /    Photo © Andi Sapey

To give Triffids! a 21st century makeover, the original lead character ‘Bill’ has been gender-flipped to ‘Jill’. While the novel’s ‘discussion’ on the gender roles in the new world are only lightly touched upon, the show remains truthful to the essence and central themes of the source material. Living in a world where most people have become blind, Platform 4 really captures ‘the interior experience’ of the characters, isolated – either as a result of their failing senses – or because of lack of human contact in the dystopian crowd-free world.

Jill Dowse as Jill / © Platform 4

In terms of the instruments that are used by the cast, they range from the ‘organic’ sounds of traditional instruments such as the violin, double bass and hammered dulcier, to ‘retro’ electronic instruments such as the Moog synthesiser and the theremin (which was used for the distinctive sound design in the film Forbidden Planet). Depending on which instruments are used, either the characters’ interior, melancholic emotions are conveyed or the general state of unease the Triffids engender.

L-R: Jules Bushell, Jill Dowse, Pete Flood and Matt Tarling / © Platform 4

If there is one line within Triffids! that encapsulates the synergy between the show and our present world, it is this: “Looking back the amount we did not know and did not care to know is somehow a bit shocking…”

L-R: Catherine Church and Jules Bushell / © Andi Sapey

As a piece of ‘gig theatre’, Triffids! is thoughly entertaining and doesn’t require any prior knowledge of the original novel. If the likes of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds dealt with an extraterrestrial invasion on broadest canvas possible, Triffids! is an intimate affair that deals with the ‘end of the world’ from a singular perspective – fathoming an existence without almost everything and everyone one once knew…

Platform 4 are:
Catherine Church
Jill Dowse
Pete Flood
Simon Plumridge
Jules Bushell
Barret Hodgson
Matt Tarling
Lawrence Hun
Barney Jeavons

© Michael Davis 2022

Triffids! was performed at the Midlands Arts Centre on 16th March. The show has been touring across the UK since 26th February and will play at the following venues:

18th March: Forest Arts Centre
New Milton
01425 612393 |

19th March: Arts Depot
020 8369 5454 |

23rd March Colchester Arts Centre
01206 500900 |

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