Invincible

invincible poster

Invincible at St James Theatre – quite dark in places, excruciatingly funny and beautifully observed.

Invincible

Cast of Torben Betts’ ‘Invincible’.

Torben BettsInvincible has transferred from the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond to St James Theatre. It is a four-hander, quite dark in places, excruciatingly funny and beautifully observed.

Presenting the interactions between a middle class ‘guilty liberal’ couple and their ‘real’ neighbours in an unspecified Northern town, where they have been required to locate for economic reasons, the writing explores bourgeois neuroses of the London pair and sets them up against the hard drinking football culture of their new neighbours. Cue awkward silences, misunderstandings and the choice between expressing polite platitudes and speaking as one finds with brutal frankness.

It’s what we Brits do best – a modern day comedy of manners, and in this case, a social and political comment also, being set in the post- Blair economic downturn, bringing in many of the current topics of conversation of education, corporations, banks, art and – the appalling results of the England team.

Interwoven with the wit and strained devastating humour, thread tales of tragedy and desperate sadness, and personal entrapment either through class and circumstance, low self-esteem or through guilt and over-developed social consciousness.

Human longings and failings are laid bare, and the audience alternately laughs or weeps with the characters’ different revelations, as the backstories bring to light the twists and turns in the events that shape their reactions.

Sometimes the structure and forced symmetry of the two couples’ circumstances felt a little contrived and creaky, and the apparent exposure of an affair was not entirely clear whether it was meant to be true or simply an attempt to make a partner jealous. Neither of these slight reservations impeded the great enjoyment of the piece, however, and the cast (Daniel Copeland, Laura Howard , Samantha Seager  and Darren Strange) were impeccable in drawing fully rounded characters with hidden depths and emotions.

The transfer from the Orange Tree’s theatre-in-the-round staging to St James’ end-on structure is interesting to observe.  The set (Sam Dowson) works well, though occasionally there is still a feeling that the actors have kept their moves from the Orange Tree’s production, continuously moving round so all angles can be viewed, when sometimes the tensions may be more greatly enhanced by moments of stillness.

Although still not quite two years old, St James Theatre is occupying an important place in the London theatre scene, providing a stepping stone between fringe and/or regional venues to test the waters in central London, with some productions making transfers to the West End. This presents opportunities not only to the creators of smaller scale works, which all too often find themselves with no further life due to the paucity of funds and suitably sized central performance spaces, but also for London audiences to see works both from out of town and high quality smaller scale pieces, providing valuable alternatives to the large commercial shows and subsidised sector.  It is also offering a certain number of £10 tickets for this production to those who may not otherwise afford the usual ticket prices.
Long may it continue.

Fiona-Jane Weston

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About Fiona Jane Weston

I am Fiona-Jane Weston and as well as being a performer myself (see website), I write reviews of and features on shows, mainly on the London cabaret and theatre scene. I have worked in theatre for many years, but decided to embark on a new direction in cabaret in 2009, when I produced 20th Century Woman: The Compact Cabaret. Not wanting to neglect my love of spoken word, particularly drama and verse, I made the conscious decision to include these elements in the programme, as well as wonderful songs, to tell the story of women's changing status and preoccupations throughout the 20th Century and up to now. I was invited to audition for the renowned Cabaret Conference at Yale, run by the late legendary Erv Raible, and that was thrilled to be one of only 26 accepted that year, where I was taught by the masters of the genre. Amanda McBroom (composer of the Bette Middler hit "The Rose" and the poignant "Errol Flynn"), Laurel Massé, original member of Manhattan Transfer, Sally Mayes, Tony Award nominees Sharon McNight and Tovah Feldshuh, and New York cabaret veteran Julie Wilson were all on the faculty. We were also treated to the musical direction of Alex Rybeck, Hubert Tex Arnold and the now late Paul Trueblood. With the benefit of their insightful teaching and great encouragement, I took my show to The Duplex in New York, where I was delighted with the response. Since then, I have produced Loving London: The Capital Cabaret, using the same format of songs, poetry and drama, in various London venues, including Leicester Square Theatre and The Crazy Coqs. 2014, the centenary of World War 1, saw the launch of Wartime Women: the Khaki Cabaret to a sellout house at St. James Theatre, London, garnering great notices, including from The Times and Musical Theatre Review. I have since been touring the show to Belgium and throughout the UK. I hope these reviews and interviews entertain and educate at the same time, and if please do leave comments in the box. It's great to engage in a conversation about the Arts. Fiona-Jane Weston
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