Friday, 10 July 2015

Theatre review: The Invisible

The Bush Theatre's skylights and lack of air-conditioning make it one of the least comfortable London theatres during the hotter months, so its summer show needs to be something that can distract from this. It managed it flamboyantly in 2013 with Josephine and I, and with family tensions as heated as the atmosphere in 2014's Perseverance Drive, but this year's offering is a much drier affair, and I'm still not sure what - except the vague, as it turns out false suggestion of a cliffhanger - even brought me back to The Invisible after the interval. It's not for lack of an important topic: Rebecca Lenkiewicz's play looks at the brutal government cuts to Legal Aid, which in the Magna Carta anniversary year seem to break one of that document's major tenets, that Justice is not to be either bought or denied. But three of the characters in The Invisible can't pay for justice, so they may have to go without: Aisha (Sirine Saba) is an Indian arranged bride being beaten and restrained at home by her husband and his family; Ken (Nicholas Bailey) is being denied access to his children.

Shaun (Niall Buggy,) meanwhile, was given an overpayment that he's now spent and can't repay, and having had help from Legal Aid in the past doesn't realise things have changed. Actually, suffering from depression following his elderly mother's death, what he really wants is to be listened to and taken seriously.

Linking their stories, and unable to give any of them as much time as she'd like, is lawyer Gail (Alexandra Gilbreath,) who runs a small local legal service along with Laura (Saba.) With two thirds of their budget gone, and their premises likely to be turned into a Tesco, even keeping her practice open is a full-time concern, and she has few resources to actually help anyone.

It's a bleak picture and a very real, current issue, but Lenkiewicz's play fails to capitalise on the inherent drama, presenting its various characters' dilemmas but not creating much of a story out of them. Despite the cast doing their best and turning in a handful of excellent moments, Michael Oakley's flat production also does the play no favours, the only directorial flourish the inclusion of incongruous, dream-like dance sequences in the middle of most scenes. Unfortunately there's little reward here for a couple of hours spent in a hot and sweaty Bush.

The Invisible by Rebecca Lenkiewicz is booking until the 15th of August at the Bush Theatre.

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes including interval.

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