Alt-science fiction writer, Christopher Priest once wrote a novel called The Glamour which argued a perfectly logical basis for invisibility: that person that never gets served at the bar, the ones you bump into in the street… some people just have less noticeability than others and the logical conclusion is that some people you just would never be able to see. Priest is a huge fan of HG Wells and Derek Webb’s adaptation of The Invisible Man would no doubt find his favour as whilst, like Wells, he entertains and educates through counter-factuality as well as the glamourous force of his staging.
Webb is clearly in love with his source material and this is The Invisible Man as written by the ghost of Ray Cooney after a drunken dinner party at Vic and Bob’s in which they contacted the ghost of Will Hay and Moore Marriott. You want proof? Well, the theme from Oh Mr Porter was played at the beginning and end of the play! I rest my case.
This Invisible Man – let’s call him TIM – races by at breakneck speed and shows how three can become fifteen as our three intrepid performers take on many roles with uncanny poise and alacrity. Director Kate Bannister takes so many risks but it all works seamlessly and hilariously – hand on heart, I don’t think I’ve laughed this much in a theatre all year.
|Mr Parker being positively protean! All photos Davor@The Ocular Creative|
Matthew gives a very moving performance in that he,
literally, moves the scenery be it Mrs Halls bar of the Reverend Bunting moving
his garden gate to follow the action as Dr Cuss (Scott Oswald) relates his
extraordinary story. The shifts in setting are also signalled by the road signs
at the side of the stage, a gentle pricking of the fourth wall which draws the
audience in on the joke without disturbing the atmosphere of earnest mystery.
|"You ain't seen me right?" Shaun Chambers|
In much the same way as the Martians attacked Woking,
gaining revenge for Wells who may have made an enemy or two when he lived
there, the Invisible Man was his proxy for writing some of the wrongs in a
country dedicated to researching weapons of mass destruction. Here though his targets
are very contemporary ones – bankers, the political elite, all our favourite
|Scott Oswald finds his Marriott|
He ends up seeking out a fellow scientist, Dr Kemp (Mr Parker again) and attempts to force him into helping him… The play picks up pace as the character changes happen so fast, you’d swear there were at least four actors on stage at any one time in the breathless conclusion.
Kate Bannister fits a huge story into the play and manages the balance between music hall fun and trace elements of the original more serious intent. Webb also deserves much credit for bringing out comic flavours that don’t detract from the adventure.
The three actors work superbly as a team and tackle so much variety – what a challenge for Matthew Parker’s first acting gig after over a decade as a director? They all pass with flying colours.
IThankYouTheatre rating: **** The perfect Christmas fare from the Jack Brockley Theatre directed and played at speed by an energised trio-troop who fill out every part with comic conviction. The spirits of Hay and Marriott walked amongst us tonight but, as with the main character, we could only feel them, not see them.
Props to William Ingham’s lighting design, especially innovative for the denouement… Karl Swinyard’s design is also a wonder transporting us back over a century and at least 50 miles south geographically.
The Invisible Man plays at the Jack until 4th January – see it if you can, there may be returns if you’re very lucky!