Friday, May 6, 2016

Invincible - Review - Gala Theatre

Gala Theatre 
2nd May 2016

Oliver and Emily are middle class southerners who have been hit by the Government cuts. Oliver has lost his job with the Civil Service and they can no longer afford to live in London. Emily is an artist witrh a socialist conscience. She abhors the system and rails against the establishment - politicians, big business, new labour, nationalism. And so they have moved north where the cost of living is cheaper and the people are "real".  As the play opens, Emily and Oliver are tidying in preparation for the meeting their new neighbours, and arguing. As the argument develops it becomes clear that Oliver has suggested they get married to please his mother who has only months to live, Emily is over protective of the children and feels the need to check on them constantly, and their neighbours cat is being a nuisance and is a potential source of friction with the neighbours. Clearly there are problems in their relationship. Oliver constantly tries to appease Emily, and she takes offence and umbrage at almost everything he says.
Into this come the neighbours Dawn and Alan. Down to earth, northern, salt of the earth. They are aspirational, own their own home, hanker after the good life. Dawn works part time and Alan is ex-navy, currently working as a post man, and loves football. He is late because England are playing. Emily and Oliver don't drink. Alan is a can man. He brings his own. These are two couples who are diametrically opposed. Disaster looms.

Writer Torben Betts has written a perfect situation comedy. Four people in conflict in a single confined space. The situation is dire, and potentially excruciatingly uncomfortable but Bett's talent is writing with humour to expose people's frailties and hypocracies. The situation can only get worse - and with every development the relationships sink deeper into catastrophe,  The observation of human nature is incisive and the two couples are gradually revealed in their true colours with almost farcical humour. The sitiation becomes unbearable for each character for different reasons, and their true characters are revealed. Each one has a vulnerability, and though they are from very different backgrounds in the end they are linked by a mutual bond of grief.

 Excellent performances by the cast make the characters completely believable - from the strident yet angst ridden Emily ((Emily Bowker), and Oliver (Alastair Whatley) who just can't seem to do or say anything right, to Dawn (Kerry Bennett) the vamp next door and Alan, her beer swilling, football chanting husband (Graeme Brookes). Invincible is a play about class, about the north south divide, and about relationships, grief and guilt. Beautifully crafted, it is incredibly funny and heartbreakingly sad.

The tour continues - details available here -

Denise Sparrowhawk

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