The Invisible Man
Director and scenographer Jetse Batelaan
Unicorn Theatre (Weston Theatre)
This Invisible Man has nothing to do with H G Wells’s science fiction story or any of its cinematic spin-offs. It is the original creation of Dutch company Theatre Artemis which specialises in making work to stimulate young children and their imagination. It doesn’t present an invisible man but can make anything invisible—even the audience.
It presents a visiting company which has come to present a show in London but something has gone wrong, Stand-in tech man Johannes (René Groothof) in spangled black leggings and with a lamp on a headband is pacing the stage and the auditorium trying to sort things out, occasionally breaking into a little jig to the bouncy music that’s playing. He can’t find the actors and seems to think the audience isn’t there either. He brings in a long ladder to adjust a scenic piece. It’s invisible, but we can hear its clanking and see where it bumps into the setting. When he sweeps up, we can’t see the broom but the rubbish moves on the floor.
After Johannes goes away, hoping to find someone, a door opens and someone comes in. We can’t see them, but a spotlight follows them to the piano, we see the piano stool move as they position it, and then they start playing.
An actress now arrives (Kim Karssen in clown costume) and we can see her, but when a returning Johannes calls out to her, the piano is so fortissimo that she can’t understand him, which builds into the kind of repetitive riff that youngsters delight in. Another actor (Marijn Brussaard) will join them.
When the others are off, the unseen pianist starts to talk to the audience and shares a secret. Raise your hands above your head and clap them and you’ll become visible! And it works as the house lights come up. Just blow, like on birthday cake candles, and you disappear again (house down). That is going to prove useful. Later he will pick certain audience members (for he can see them) to come on stage and help with doing other things to his directions. There isn’t a clear credit for who pays the pianist (my guess is that it is the show’s composer, musician Keimpe de Jong) but it is a lovely performance.
There isn’t much plot, as they try to solve the problem of the missing audience, but it continues with a great deal of imaginative invention that includes some ghostly arrivals and a sequence when what appears to be a live video of what is on stage shows characters not on stage and times when there are strong shadows of people who are not there to make them.
It is an hour and a bit of zany absurdism leading up to the actors discovering the audience, all of which gets a great response from an audience of enthusiastic participants. Creators, performers and technicians all do a great job. It is aimed at ages 5–11 but will surely delight everyone who sees it.
Reviewer: Howard Loxton