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The Theatreguide.London Review

The Invisible Man
Menier Chocolate Factory    Winter 2010-2011

This modestly entertaining revival of Ken Hill's comical-musical-thriller has 'Fringe Theatre' written all over it.

Unusually for the Menier (and despite a first-class cast) it doesn't have a ready-for-the-West-End feel, and your full enjoyment of the evening may require a small lowering of expectations.

Granted, Hill forestalls any criticism of modest production values by setting his version of the H.G. Wells tale of a scientific experiment gone wrong and its effect on a small village in the frame of an early-20th-century Music Hall company performance.

But even allowing for that, you are likely to find the painted backdrops, minimal sets and especially the magical effects - props floating in mid-air as held by the invisible man, pages turning in a newspaper, milk disappearing from a glass, and the like - a bit half-hearted and disappointing.

There's too much reliance on actors miming being pulled around or punched by the unseen assailant for the gimmick to be convincing.

Director Ian Talbot seems to have been unsure of the tone he wanted - playing it straight, sending it up as Music Hall melodrama, or using it as a springboard for interpolated gags in the mode of the current production of The 39 Steps.

And so we get a little of each, sometimes cleverly, too often just keeping us from knowing how we're meant to react.

One of the best value-added gags has the cast obviously turn their backs to us to make the gabbling noise of an offstage mob every time a door is opened in one scene. Had there been a lot more of that, the show would have been a lot more fun.

There are droll performances by Christopher Godwin, Teddy Kempner, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Natalie Casey, shamelessly broad ones by Gary Wilmot and Maria Friedman, and an appropriately hardly-noticeable one by John Gordon Sinclair in the title role.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - The Invisible Man - Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre 2010


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