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23rd February 2024

UMMTS’ Timey Wimey review: A Doctor Whosical

Even if you are not a Whovian the UMMTS’ production will take you on a mesmerising journey through the most iconic features of the Whoniverse
UMMTS’ Timey Wimey review: A Doctor Whosical
Photo: Timey Wimey: A Doctor Whosical @ UMMTS. Credit: Madison French

The University of Manchester’s Musical Theatre Society (UMMTS) pays joyous homage to Doctor Who with this home-grown production.

I must begin this piece with a confession: I have never really been compelled to watch Doctor Who and neither have I been compelled to watch musicals so I was very much not the target audience for the entirely student-created Timey Wimey: A Doctor Whosical. That said, I still found myself fully engaged and immersed in this delightful student production.

Before the musical had even started, there was a light atmosphere, shot through with fans’ expectations of what was about to be performed. The set comprised of a dressing screen covered in tin foil with a large blow-up telephone on the side as the TARDIS and some chairs – it was clear from the offset that this was a piece that wasn’t going to take itself too seriously.

The piece opens with a rather odd introduction from River Song which does not add anything. But then, we excitedly meet a new regeneration of The Doctor (played by the wonderfully charismatic Loie Milne) who meets Hobie (Rory Chilton), a disengaged, anarchist, student looking for direction in his life. The pair join together, in classic Doctor Who fashion and attempt to survive the showcase of the classic monstrous alien beings that are part of The Master, Missy and Delgado’s evil plan to destroy The Doctor. Throughout the musical, we come across recognisable characters like the Autrons, Weeping Angels, Cybermen, Daleks, K9, the Fourth and Tenth Doctor(s) and even the writers of the TV series themselves.  The plot has a richness if you are an avid Whovian but even if you are very ill-equipped with the show, it’s still a fun journey through the most iconic parts of Doctor Who.

It is clear that Gabriel Youngs and Oisín O’Reilly have written this piece with deep affection and passion.  And yes, while maybe some of the plot is a bit convoluted or redundant and some of it was lost in a few songs which made light work of detail, it almost does not matter. The piece is incredibly self-aware of its parody subtitle and wears that badge with pride. There is no glamour here but there certainly is vim. Charlie Steggall, Max Rosen and Felix Do have done a wonderful job of composing and writing the lyrics for all the music which at points hits really lovely sumptuous or even surprising moments, thinking of a particular piece performed by The Master. UMMTS must be congratulated on producing an entirely brand new, entirely student-led piece.

Photo: Ella Thrush @ The Mancunion

The lighting and sound design team of UMMTS’ Whosical bring energy to this piece which is matched by the performances from Milne and Chilton especially. Their dynamic as Doctor and assistant worked really sweetly though it seemed as if a lot of their relationship develops out of sight of the audience; they go from strangers to ten minutes later, having their dramatic handshake and in-jokes. I would have liked to see the groundwork of their friendship develop on stage as it essentially is the bedrock of the musical.

While being a jolly romp through all things Who where I was never bored, some moments felt chaotically cartoonish, not hitting the wonderful camp notes it could have done. At points, the sound levels made it hard to catch what was happening and the costumes, especially of the Doctor, were zany rather than rooted in characterisation. At the beginning, there was a slight tone of nervousness in the writing and performances but I am putting this down to it being the first night of a brand new show. I certainly think there was a silly charm to the whole thing that pushed it along at a nice pace.

The Whosical featured certain stand-out moments, for example, the Autoron’s tango, the Scouse K9 delivering the line “commence spilling the tea” (or just the K9 and their character progression full stop) and the rather bitter Cyberman/ Dalek old married style of bickering. Milne and Chilton deserve a special mention as their energy was 100% present in every scene. The reprise of ‘Another Day in the Universe’ was so effervescent that it ended the show on a high.

The opening night was sold out and the musical obviously rewards those who deeply care about the show. I did find myself texting a friend well versed in the series about references that I had missed, googling things on the way home to get the extra details but it is by no means any less enjoyable if you do not speak fluent Gallifreyan. It most certainly is ‘beautifully studenty’ as a friend said after but is a good laugh and an evening enjoyably spent.

UMMTS’s Timey Wimey: A Doctor Whosical runs from 21 – 24 Feb at Students’ Union Theatre.

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