by Torben Betts.
Orange Tree Theatre 1 Clarence Street TW9 2SA To 12 April 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3pm & 20, 27 Mar, 3 Apr + post-show discussion.
Audio-described 29 Mar 3pm, 1 Apr.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8940 3633.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 March.
With nudge and punch expertly probing lives’ surfaces..
He’s smartly-dressed and on best behaviour, as he can be in more established theatres; Torben the Tame rather than the bestial Betts of his fringe outings. But the wild-child is evident. Beneath – and within – the neatly contrasted characters, progressively-minded southerners Emily and Oliver downgrading to northern costs of living, so meeting postman Alan and his sexily suburban wife Dawn, there’s savagery. Less you can’t always get what you want than there’s no way you’ll get any satisfaction.
It’s clearest in Emily’s strangulated life, portrayed in every expression of Laura Howard’s performance. Clinging to causes, to joss-sticks and chants, her life is tensed-up and soured by guilt over their son’s death. It ties-up Oliver, his attempts to avoid upsetting his so-easily offended partner clear in Darren Strange’s several cul de sac bursts of cheerful energy.
Across the glimpse of garden are the locals, trim-figured Dawn – Samantha Seager makes her physical interest in newcomer Oliver clear – and her postman husband Alan. As in many aspects of this play, by turns comic and piercingly serious, Daniel Copeland’s loudness and ebullience allow just enough information to suggest, or mislead.
It’s a sign of quality writing that Betts makes the unseen characters, all sharing similar fates, vital and significant. Whether it’s Oliver and Emily’s son, or Dawn and Alan’s, or indeed their pet cat, all play their part in the action and underlie the characters’ lives.
Vince, the cat, gives his name to the play and points to the irony of its title. No-one is invincible here. That’s clear from the start for the southerners, while Alan’s eternal jokiness suggests the attempt to create an insubstantial happiness. But it’s taciturn Dawn whose final transformation, in Seager’s drained presence, is most devastating.
There are times Betts allows a character to talk without revealing any more about themselves, and this can come perilously close to the tedious. But, mainly, Invincible’s a dramatic wolf clothed like a cuddly sheep, bringing its own sharp bite. Ellie Jones’ production unleashes it with admirable force and clarity on Sam Dowson’s set, where deceptively neat furnishings are offset by Emily’s disturbed paintings.
Emily: Laura Howard.
Oliver: Darren Strange.
Dawn: Samantha Seager.
Alan: Daniel Copeland.
Director: Ellie Jones.
Designer: Sam Dowson.
Lighting: John Harris.
Trainee Director: Sophie Boyce.
Assistant designer: Katy Mills.