DramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

The Invisible Man – Northern Stage

Reviewer: Mark Clegg

Writer: Phillip Correia

Director: Anna Girvan

While they have all been around for well over 100 years, classic literature’s monsters and madmen such as Count Dracula, and Doctors Frankenstein and Jekyll, remain as famous and popular as ever. This is largely due to them constantly being brought back in popular culture as a reflection of the zeitgeist. This is also true of H G Wells’ Griffin aka the invisible man. The concept of becoming invisible is often explored in films and TV shows, most recently in 2020’s movie The Invisible Man which very effectively explored toxic masculinity and domestic abuse. However unlike his monstrous counterparts, The Invisible Man is rarely seen (no pun intended) on stage – thanks to obvious technical difficulties.

This new stage version of The Invisible Man is not an adaptation of the Wells book, although it does use some of the character names and the obvious inclusion of a man that becomes invisible. Or does he? The initial set-up is intriguing: Griffin (Daniel Watson) is a troubled young man with a sharp brain but wayward thoughts and an apparent violent past. He is brought to Dr Kemp (Kate Louise Okello) who is extremely interested in Griffin’s claims that he can make things invisible. To begin with their relationship seems to be beneficial to Griffin. But is Griffin telling the truth? Or is he delusional?

The main theme within Phillip Coreia’s script seems to be “invisibility” in today’s society – both voluntary and otherwise. Reference is made to “invisible” homeless and mentally ill people, as well as the “invisible” folk who hide within the corridors of power. This seems to be very fertile ground for a modern take on this story, but unfortunately, like every other social issue that is raised here, these points remain largely unexplored. Other potentially hot topics such as racial and religious attitudes, hypocrisy within organised religion, the state of the care system, corruption within the establishment and the media’s manipulation of real events are all brought up, and almost immediately dropped, almost as if Correia had a tick list of hot button topics. This would have been far more effective if Correia’s play (which is only 80 minutes to begin with) had zeroed in on one or two of these issues. Ironically for a play about someone who can’t be seen, the script contains far too much to take in.

This fundamental flaw is frustrating as there is a lot to enjoy here. Correia injects genuine humour and creates some effective sequences (mainly involving the invisible man), and Anna Girvan’s direction is interesting and effective considering the simplicity and small scale of the set. The cast are also very strong with Watson bringing true anger and threat to the unravelling Griffin, while Okello is also very good as Kemp even if the character’s motivations are never made entirely clear. The cast of four is completed with Jack Fairley and Izzy Ions playing every other character – both showing massive versatility particularly Fairley who is the standout in the cast.

The play opens with a question:  what would you do if you were invisible? There seems to be no morally or legally acceptable answer to this question, but again this is barely explored in this play which is more interested in Griffin’s motivation to become invisible, which isn’t half as interesting. Overstuffed and undercooked, this production would benefit from a tighter focus and a less restrictive running time.

Runs until 19th February 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Transparently Muddled

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The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East

The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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