Fringe Box



Stage Dragon Review: North Meets South in ‘Invincible’ At The Yvonne Arnaud

Published on: 6 Apr, 2016
Updated on: 8 Apr, 2016

As the lights went down on a full house at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre last night (Tuesday, April 5), there was a buzz of anticipation.

The stage dressing included a town built from children’s painted wooden blocks. A toy train chugged in from offstage and meandered through the town while the stage lights went up. There was a gasp from the audience. A clever touch of staging.

North meets South in Invincible.

North meets south in Invincible.

As the actors launched into Act 1 of Invincible, I waited for the clash of two cultures, that is, the north and south divide, to raise its head. After all, moving north from London should give us a look at how southerners fit into the northern ethos, shouldn’t it?. Who would have the upper hand?

Using Euro 2012 and the worsening recession as the background to his play, Torben Betts has given us a social evening between neighbours to show us what can happen when different personalities collide.

As we were introduced to each of the couples, I was struck by how neither pair really seemed to belong together. But, as they conversed, it became apparent that there had at one time been compelling reasons for them to be together, but perhaps not any longer.

"More into Laurel and Hardy than the Marx Brothers" in Invincible.

“More into Laurel and Hardy than the Marx Brothers” in Invincible.

There were scattered jokes and one-liners which the audience dutifully laughed at, but there were no great belly laughs.

There was a lot of busy work to enable the actors to get to their places to deliver their lines. And then there was the cat, Vince. We never saw Vince, but he was integral to the plot.

By the end of Act 1, the audience seemed to laugh, cringe and reflect that they too had been to a party where they had met at least one of the characters portrayed on stage.

Act 2 took a darker turn. Set after the party, the secrets came spilling out. The mood of the play was absorbed by the audience, and the theatre became quieter. The laughs of the first act dried up, and it was a sombre audience that I saw exiting the theatre.

The tension builds in Invincible.

The tension builds in Invincible.

I have to admit that I still cannot match all the actions and reactions up in my mind. If this was what Torben Betts desired, he succeeded.

Having seen Alastair Whatley in Flare Path, I was intrigued to see what he would do in Invincible with the part of Oliver. He threw himself into the part and gave us a picture of a wimpish young 30-something, unable to assert himself in the first half. In the second, he was more forceful.

The character Emily played by Emily(!) Bowker was very self-assured in the first act, but curiously far less so in the second. While Ms Bowker was good at her job, I felt her character was  two dimensional and she hadn’t been given enough to work with.

Dawn as played by Kerry Bennett, was the classic cliché of a woman forced by circumstance into a way of life not knowing how to change it to make her life better. Dawn gave Kerry the opportunity to show a full circle of emotion. Not many parts do, and Kerry managed to pull it off.

Graham Brookes, as Alan, gave us an insight into that brash, beer-swilling, loud-mouth who won’t shut up and dominates every party, by showing us he does have a softer side.

Invincible is on at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre until Saturday, April 9. To book tickets, call 01483 440000 or click here to book online.

Star rating 3

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