We Can Time Travel is both a declaration and an invitation, and fittingly Dom Coyote is the definition of inviting. A fantastically warm performer, his manner is entirely earnest and kind and when it feels as if you have eye contact, you’re there with him, wherever he is.
In this production, it could be anywhere. A boat in a freezing storm with his grandfather at the moment of his death or the earth years in the future, watching the dying sun blot everything out. We Can Time Travel is Coyote’s first work with Rich Rusk completely devised from scratch, and there’s never a point where we need another performer besides Coyote. His command of language is light but sure, and luckily never too wordy. Even when he’s piling possibilities on top of each other and repeating, reminding us of the wormholes or loopholes his character exploits thanks to the teachings of the Paradox Club, he keeps us focused.
It’s impossible not to refer to Chris Swain’s lighting design, as large a part of Coyote and Rusk’s production as the words spoken; we see the aforementioned failing sun cradled like a baby. Twin lamps positioned behind Coyote flicker while we hear voices, as if speaking. The various lights are sensitive to every moment, never missing a beat, making the rather industrial basement of Shoreditch Town Hall seem in some way the perfect place for this journey to be happening – anywhere else, it might seem too polished. Likewise the sound design, engineered by Chris Prosho and partially formed before us by Coyote himself references tech-heavy, science fiction classics while remaining lo-fi and handmade. We Can Time Travel, like Coyote, is utterly distinctive and impressive because of it.
The live songs, however, which mark the structure of the piece occasionally lose the the hold Coyote otherwise has over us. While his voice is like that of John Darnielle (like a goat in a good way, somehow strong and lean), We Can Time Travel feels most unique and intimate when he’s talking to us, asking us the date, or to close our eyes, telling us something as if he really believes we’re the right people to talk to. During the songs, some of which are quite impressive with their looping and layering, we’re unfortunately distanced from Coyote, reduced to an audience watching a man sing into a microphone when at other points it feels like we’re on the same level as him.
It’s a humanist affair, sights trained firmly on the relatively small achievements and larger problems of which we’re capable. The plotline isn’t overly substantial or original, but with Coyote in the driving seat, perhaps we’d go along with anything. It’s not quite specific enough to feel like a truly rousing call to arms, though the note we end on seems to imply it’s meant to be, or to at least prompt thought. It’s more likely to leave you with the colours and sounds still playing on your mind. We Can Time Travel is worth seeing for its energy, for its assured production values; Coyote’s infectious sincerity, if not the subject matter itself, might well make you feel something. And maybe that’ll be time folding over.
We Can Time Travel is on until 5 May 2018 at Shoreditch Town Hall. Click here for more details.