A superb one-woman show from Kate Cook,
Kate Cook’s performance was wonderful, creating a world and bringing life to its inhabitants with changes to physicalisation and vocal delivery.
Mrs Bishop is sent away by her curmudgeonly peg-legged husband, who insists she is useless and having a nervous breakdown. Immediately proving him wrong, her successive work with the War Office leads to a meeting with the rather dashing, pipe-smoking Major Whatsit, who enlists her as a spy - all the while riffing off his favourite poetry with fantastic nonsensical wordplay. While in training, she is given a new nickname, Pookie, and later given the titular codename ‘Invisible Woman’. Soon the Invisible Woman is sent off on ‘Operation Owl and Pussycat’, where her contact in occupied France is a man who goes by ‘Runcible Spoon’.
There’s a lot of fun in this piece, but it operates on a deeper level as well, drawing on research to depict a possible experience of a woman during the war (admittedly, a very unique woman who has many very unique experiences). What’s interesting is that the protagonist doesn’t have a first name. Throughout she is either referred to by her husband’s surname or nicknames. This is a striking reminder of the way women are often pushed to one side in our recollection of history.
Kate Cook’s performance was wonderful, creating a world and bringing life to its inhabitants with changes to physicalisation and vocal delivery: Mrs Bishop’s 15-year-old daughter Cecily, her Scottish grandmother, cranky peg-legged husband, various military men, jolly lady spy Florence, and even some chickens, Cook played nearly all of the characters… well, almost.
Technical elements were used sparingly and well. Some music was used to set moods and the Invisible Woman’s journey to France was depicted with a toy airplane and a flashlight, which amplified the action in the story. It reminded me of one of those old radio adventure serials, Cook ending key scenes on various cliff-hangers, but it all building to a satisfying conclusion, earning delighted laughter from the audience when the payoff came.