Amy cannot socialise with the other mums after the school run because she is needed in the office. Amy’s office shoes slice through the tender patch of skin on the back of her heel. Amy admits to the audience in the opening lines of Louise Breckon-Richards’ new play, that her responsibilities toward family and work plot the inexorable movements of her life.
Martinkauppi should be commended for the smooth running of such a delicate tragi-comic pendulum
The Cloak of Visibility is the story of what happens when Amy’s system of reliable safeties (family – work – holiday) betrays her. It is a withering assessment of unsustainable female roles and those who both insist upon and gatekeep them (spoiler: often not women). Sally Vanderpump’s performance as Amy is energised and precise; a major feat in a script that intermittently moves her from the domestic to the professional, through ever-revolving vistas of the fantastic and the bleak.
Charissa Martinkauppi’s direction keeps a steady hand on the ordeals of Amy’s journey whilst capitalising on much-needed moments of levity and humour. This friction between domestic mundanity and emotional tragedy is the driving force of The Cloak of Visibility, and Martinkauppi should be commended for the smooth running of such a delicate tragi-comic pendulum. This direction provides an elegant nuance to the surreal intensity of Breckon-Richards’ script, which places Amy across locations in London, often discordantly.
Stories cannot be told in a vacuum, and thematically The Cloak of Visibility feels like a hybrid nod to E.V. Crowe’s Shoe Lady, Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love, and The Emperor’s New Clothes. The eponymous cloak (designed by Anki Lake) dominates the third act of the piece and provides some stark colour to the neutral tones of Amy’s living room.
Breckon-Richards’ script is occasionally frenetic, but finds its best footing in moments where Amy catches herself adrift. Moments where Amy realises that she has spent hours longer on riverside walks than she intended to, feeling cheated by the caprice of her own thoughts, are highly effective. These are a tender reference to the occasionally overwhelming indifference of cities, and a nod to those who we pass-by who appear to be moving with distinct purpose, but who may be moving only because they are scared of what might happen when they stop and are caught by their own thoughts.
The Cloak of Visibility is as much social parable as it is monologue-driven theatre. It is full of wisdom, but never didactic. This piece of theatre presents an emotive and heartfelt journey into despair, whilst steering welcomingly clear of the ‘fallen woman’ genre.