Final preparations are underway for Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of The Worlds which is being performed in Stornoway next month.
The production, which is being put on by Iain Neosa MacKinnon of Neosa Music, is on in An Lanntair on Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9.
It looks set to be a sell-out, with three-quarters of Friday tickets and two-thirds of Saturday tickets sold at the time of writing – and anyone keen is advised to book their tickets without delay to avoid disappointment.
Rehearsals have been taking place since October and the show has been two years in the making, ever since Neosa decided to try to see if it was possible to put on the show as an amateur production.
After being told ‘yes’, he then worked two jobs in order to raise the money he needed to pay for the licence from the Jeff Wayne Foundation which authorised the use of the original visuals and sound effects.
The show will be a recreation of the Jeff Wayne stage show, based on his War of The Worlds concept album, which was made in the 1970s and inspired by the H.G. Wells Victorian novel.
This is the story of a Martian invasion that is said to have sparked mass panic among the listening public in 1938 when it was first dramatised on radio in the USA.
Now, a cast of musicians and actor / singers – all local talent – are recreating Jeff Wayne’s stage show by combining live music, song and narration with the original visuals, sound effects and orchestral arrangements too.
Neosa has been working on additional effects – although he has not been able to incorporate a large-scale Martian Fighting Machine as a prop…
The musicians who will be performing are Jason Laing on electric guitar, Colin Rankine on acoustic guitar, Angus Murray on bass, Del Gunn on drums - plus Alex Tearse and Calum Macdonald on keys.
Calum Blane will be The Artillery Man, Gordon Smith will be The Voice of Humanity and Rod Morrison will be Parson Nathaniel. Rachel Kennedy will be Beth, the Parson’s wife.
Neosa himself will The Narrator / The Journalist and Alan Fish will be singing the part of The Musical Thoughts of The Journalist.
Sineag Blane and Anna Murray are giving support with drama and choreography and other elements of staging.
With little time to go now, Neosa admitted: “I’m totally stressed out!”
Rehearsals, which take four to five hours to set up for and an hour-and-a-half to pack up after, have been a big commitment all round.
But he said the band had been “fantastic” and “amazing”.
Neosa said “loads of people turned down parts” in the beginning – either because it wasn’t their thing or it was too big a commitment.
To have assembled such a good cast despite that, he said, “just goes to show how much talent there is on the island”.
The band members spoke about how they are feeling about taking part.
Jason Laing said it was “very ambitious” but that he was “chuffed to bits” to have been asked to take part.
“I’m absolutely delighted to be taking part in it, having grown up listening to it. It’s completely different to anything I’ve ever done before – having to play completely in sync with the visuals and the sound effects. It leaves no room for error.”
Colin Rankine said he, too, was “really excited”. He added: “I love War of The Worlds. Proud to be a part of it. It’s a really big challenge but the fact that I’m such a massive fan makes it all worth it.”
He, too, thought it was extreme. “I thought ‘what a massive undertaking it will be’ but it will pay off when you see the show. The amount of dedication and hours. He’s done a fantastic job of it.”
Del Gunn said: “I thought it would be quite easy but when I read the score I thought, ‘crikey!’ It’s a big challenge but a good challenge. It’s taken a huge amount of practice – about two hours a night at the moment.”
Del said it had been the main focus of his practice for months. “Just because of the time changes. The speed changes as well and the pure concentration required for a score like this. It’s just making sure we can all play accurately together, along with the film as well.”
Alex Tearse said: “I’m absolutely loving it. It’s fantastic. It’s epic, just epic, and it’s everybody pulling together to make it happen. It’s really community-based stuff but the effort that’s gone into doing it…
"If we can pull this off, which we will, we can do anything. The sky’s the limit. Everybody who’s coming to see it, I think they’ll be blown away.”
Angus Murray said: “I think it’s really exciting. It’s like a bass solo from start to end. It’s a bass player’s dream, if you want to do the work. But there’s a lot of work.
“It’s one of my favourite albums ever. I was always a fan of it. I remember it from the 70s. I had my doubts about whether I’d be able to do the whole lot but it’s panned out.”
War of The Worlds in Stornoway?
Why on Earth not?
Pictures by Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos