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INVINCIBLE – St James Theatre, London.

Torben Betts play Invincible is a striking presentation of four characters – four people, living in Northern England, after the recession. All four are distinct ‘characters’ within society, you could even say prescribed or stereotypes – yet although Betts initially presents them this way, as the narrative unfurls and their lives, losses and loves unveiled, we begin to see the people they are within the boundaries of their own extremes, beliefs and actions.

The plot centers around two couples: Emily (Laura Howard) and Oliver (Darren Strange), a middle class couple with two children who have moved from London to the North East after civil-servant Oliver lost his job in the recession – and their neighbours Dawn (Samantha Seager) and Alan (Daniel Copeland), who have been born and brought up on the street they are all now live on. Strange’s performance of a man trying to appease his highly strung and opinionated partner Emily (played excellently by Howard) is marvelous to watch, as it is both baffling that he puts up with her and triumphant when he fights back. Copeland and Seager’s presentation of husband and wife Alan and Dawn captures a very different partnership and different issues to live through – but both couples have to deal with loss and it is in this that Betts unites the couples and conveys the true difference and similarities between people, particularly when they are in the many stages of grief and love.

The real brilliance of this piece comes through the way Betts deftly merges the extremes of human nature into a melee of genuine laughter from the audience as well as real sadness: the potential and realised empathy induced throughout the piece, particularly by both Howard and Seager is crucial and really helps to engage the audience, as well as go someway to portray these women as more rounded characters, very different from the initial stereotypical women presented.

The set designed by Sam Dowson was brilliant – particularly when it too, like the plot, reveals secrets of a comic nature. Director Ellie Jones makes several bold choices in this production, namely to have dance like scene transitions with bold lighting states (designed by Tim Mascall), and for me, only one of these really works to fluidly drive the piece; the others – particularly the first, give entirely the wrong impression of the characters. However, these transitions are infinitely better to a black out and do provide moments of comedy that are well worth including.

Invincible is a great comedy drama that is all at once a snap shot into society, what it means to live in the twenty first century as an adult, as well as posing questions to us all about what the future holds and what we can do to improve it for generations to come. Invincible is well worth a watch and the performances by all four cast members are superb.

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Reviewed 15/07/14

By Emily Jones

10 July – 9 August 2014
St James Theatre, London, SW1.

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