When H. G. Wells wrote his "War of the Worlds" the British Empire was dominating the world. Social Darwinism was suggesting that the strong had a right to dominate the weak.
Wells, by imagining an invasion by technologically superior aliens, imagines how it might feel to be at the receiving end of such domination.
And before we judge them [the Martians] too harshly, we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished Bison and the Dodo, but upon its own inferior races. "The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years." "Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?" Chapter I, "The Eve of the War"
When Orson Wells produced his radio play the rise of Hitler was once again raising the spectre of a master race dominating the rest of the world.
The only warnings that the radio play was fictional were at the beginning and about one hour later. Many listeners had tuned in after a popular programme had finished on another station, and so didn't hear the announcer advise that the work was fictional. Some thought that the Germans had invaded. Others believed that there was a Martian invasion. The massive panic which ensued has become legendary.
If you would like to sit in on the production which panicked a nation, Nash Theatre is presenting "War of the Worlds" as a dramatised radio play. We watch the cast as they read their scripts to air, see sounds effects being generated, and atmospheric music is played.
The play is spell-binding, and the readers more than do it justice. Maybe a couple of readers need to think through the difficult task of actors playing the role of actors – to avoid a temptation to over-act. But on the whole this play works well, and one can understand it had such a powerful initial impact.
I always enjoy going to Nash productions. They choose plays within their range, and do them well.