Tuesday, 25 March 2014

INVINCIBLE by Torben Betts

Orange Tree Theatre
24 March 2014

Director: Ellie Jones
Cast: Laura Howard, Darren Strange, Samantha Seager, Daniel Copeland

Playwright Torben Betts has the unusual ability to mix the banal with the sharp, to mine the quotidian for those moments in which life is lived fully, whether in pleasure but more often in despair. I forgot to take a notebook last night, so I can’t give you specific examples – except that they might not have worked out of context anyway, which is the beauty of the writing. Betts is also a clever plotter; and he is funny.

Invincible is about the clash of civilizations: middle class Guardianista south, full of liberal piety made easy by the probability of inherited wealth, comes up against intellectually stifled working class Ukippish north.  Needless to say nobody wins.  It is a perfect sit com sit, and to begin with one sits comfortably amused as the opening shots are fired.  Darkness falls during the interval, and although the com is not abandoned, the sit gets hairy.

That’s as much as I’ll say.  The performances are first class, utterly convincing. Laura Howard as an obsessive Marxist twitches and writhes and hurls stares of incomprehension with exhausting vigour, pulverising her ineffectual public school-educated husband Oliver, played by Darren Strange as suffering with Hugh Grantish ummings and ahhings of social embarrassment.  Daniel Copeland as the football-loving postie with verbal diarrhoea, Alan, manages to extrude from us both laughter and pity; his wife, Dawn, as played by Samantha Seager, is wound up tight as her miniskirt and her anger and frustration at her life steams throughout.

Betts plays with stereotypes here, which is a dangerous business, but he pulls it off, just, because there are surprises and because he writes so well, almost managing to disguise his own liberal sympathies. Invincible is not a great play, but it is an engaging one, and especially so in the degree of commitment by the company performing it. Recommended.

And look out for Downhill, Betts' first movie script and due out any time soon.

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