Review: Invincible, by Torben Betts, New Wolsey Theatre, until April 23, then Colchester Mercury April 28-30

Graeme Brookes, Kerry Bennett, Alastair Whatley in Invincible by Torben Betts at the New Wolsey Thea

Graeme Brookes, Kerry Bennett, Alastair Whatley in Invincible by Torben Betts at the New Wolsey Theatre - Credit: Archant

What’s the recipe for an exceptionally good night out at the theatre? The following ingredients are essential - a play which is entertaining, thought-provoking and has a heart.

Alastair Whatley, Emily Bowker in Invincible by Torben Betts at the New Wolsey Theatre

Alastair Whatley, Emily Bowker in Invincible by Torben Betts at the New Wolsey Theatre - Credit: Archant

Invincible, by emerging writing star Torben Betts, has all these things and more. The dialogue is sharp and fires across the stage at the speed of bullets from a machine gun. As a result, the pace of this bittersweet comedy never flags.

The action is set in the front room of a small Victorian terraced house in the north of England. A young couple are hosting a ‘getting to know you’ party for the neighbours. They have recently relocated to this northern shire from London after Oliver (Alastair Whatley) was made redundant from the civil service. As they point out, they can no longer afford to live in London.

On a surface level this play is a culture-clash comedy about two couples: one who love modern art, eat olives and worry about global warming and the fate of the Labour Party and another who love football, are fiercely patriotic and unselfconsciously drink their beer from cans. But, this play is about far more than that.

Torben Betts, the director Christopher Harper and the cast have invested a lot in these characters and have resisted turning them into caricatures. They have made them into real people who you care about. As the play progresses you learn about darker secrets which explain a lot of the background to their actions and flesh out the characters still further.


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It can be viewed as an Abigail’s Party for the 21st century, a play which addresses the concerns of its time in a perceptive and highly entertaining way. While the laughter continues to echo from the auditorium, there are several poignant moments which are revealed, almost by accident, which are affecting in their honesty.

The play is structured like a movie script with a series of short, sharp scenes illustrating the passing of time. The cast of Alastair Whatley, Emily Bowker, Kerry Bennett and Graeme Brookes are all superb and the less you know about their roles before the start of the evening the better. We should all be introduced to them at the party.

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Finally, the show starts with the most brilliant piece of direction – the journey north, on a toy train through model villages. Brilliant.

Tickets for this stunning new play are going fast, if you love theatre you’d be advised to snap up the remaining ones quickly.

Andrew Clarke

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