Invisible Me review

Invisible Me review

Invisible Me review

Jenny Booth is impressed by this accomplished new play


New Wimbledon Theatre Studio is the perfect space to perform the new play Invisible Me. The actors at last night’s premiere were so close that the audience could see every expression flickering across their faces. It made for an intense and intimate experience – just right for a confessional drama. The tone of the play is poignant but also comic, as three characters reaching 60 reveal their innermost thoughts about life’s dead ends and the absurdity of sex. It takes a lot of skill for actors to suspend the disbelief of viewers who are only centimetres away, especially when expounding on risky subjects such as the joys of becoming a Victorian dominatrix, but Debbie Christie, Andrew Fettes and Philip Gill did not put a foot wrong. As the action unfolded, the play takes the audience on a satisfying emotional journey from loneliness towards warmth, humour and connection.

It was rather bleak at the start. In Chuma Emembolu’s effective lighting design each actor stood isolated in their own spotlight, a Greek chorus of misery. They did not speak to each other, only to the audience, and the action unfolded in fractured monologues. We heard from Lynn (Christie): a former model who was browbeaten then abandoned by an abusive husband, alone since the death of a bossy mother, her cleaning job the highlight of her week. Then there was Alec (Fettes): a divorced cabbie, chirpy and full of himself, convinced of his attractiveness to women less than half his age and obviously cruising for a fall. Lastly there was Jack (Gill): HIV positive and alone since the death of a loved partner, his visits to his therapist his only reason to leave the house. But even in the bleakness there was humour, as the characters ruefully joked at their own expense.

Each of the three starts on their journey back from unhappiness thanks to an encounter to do with sex. The healing and comedic power of sex is one of dramatist Bren Gosling’s underlying themes. Gosling makes it richly amusing, portraying sex at a certain age as rarely seamlessly romantic and often tinged with the absurd. Alec’s effort at a passionate tango ends in groin strain. Our 60-year-old characters notice the comic details – the wriggling feet in white socks, the politeness of the man begging to be spanked, the vain fluffing up of body hair as a new partner arrives. By the end of the play the action exudes a delightful warmth and humanity. Director Su Gilroy has the characters leave their self-imposed isolation, eventually starting to talk to one another and form real connection.

Well done to New Wimbledon Theatre for scheduling this accomplished new play – the first in a season of new writing premiering in the Theatre Studio. If the rest is up to the high standard of Invisible Me, we have theatrical treats in store.

New Wimbledon Theatre.

Until 11 September 2021.

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