The Invisible Man

It’s always disappointing to see an interesting concept marred by poor execution. The Invisible Man takes the central concept from the HG Wells novel, but transports it to a noir-style Chicago, filled with trench coats and jazz music. The scene is complemented with generous doses of physical theatre and a smidge of onstage music. Though far removed from the original idea, it’s an intriguing play, but one that asks far too much of the young actors involved.

The Invisible Man is full of interesting ideas that coalesce into a tight vision of a show.

The script is surprisingly funny, leaning on parody of noir conventions. The story holds together pretty well, too, though occasionally falls back on people explaining what they’re feeling, just so the audience hears it. The blocking is interesting, making novel use of a couple of briefcases, three corded telephones and a wealth of bodies. The way the titular man is presented is particularly inventive. Two actors manipulate a trench coat and hat. Each has a gloved hand through one of the coat’s armholes, so he has two gloved hands that move naturally. Even the style is thoughtfully chosen: adding music and narration fills out the aesthetic while covering what could have been silence during the physical theatre sections, and adds artistic purpose to exposition. The only bad idea is the baffling inclusion of a wealth of finger snapping, assumedly to tie in with the style, but when all the actors wear gloves, it will never sound right.

This all means that a group of British secondary school children needed to do a number of American accents (in order to play different characters during the crowd scenes), provide live music, handle precise movements and perform in dramatic and comic roles. One can hardly be surprised that they struggled.

The Invisible Man is full of interesting ideas that coalesce into a tight vision of a show. But that vision is overly ambitious given the age and experience of the cast. If, as must be the case, The Invisible Man serves to provide these budding performers with experience in the world’s largest arts festival, a simpler concept may have better served to give them a chance to focus on a few performance aspects, and shine brighter for it.

Reviews by Bennett Bonci

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The Blurb

'In a city this crooked, it sure helps to blend in with the crowd.’ Blabbermouth Theatre presents a finger-clicking film noir-styled revamp of the H G Wells novel, using empty clothes puppetry, a live jazz soundtrack and heavy poetic license to retell this story as an entertaining pulp narrative of dames and invisible private eyes. The Victorian first person account narrative meets its reincarnation in the gritty narrative voice of the gumshoe detective, as made famous by writers like Raymond Chandler and films such as Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity.