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The class divide

Posted: 6th April 2016

Theatre review by Henry Ascoli

‘Invincible’, Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Class and culture collide in this compelling comedy, which had the Yvonne Arnaud hanging on every word.

Torben Betts’ superbly-crafted play shines the spotlight on the north-south divide, social stereotypes and political correctness, set against the backdrop of the most brutal recession in a generation.

From laugh-out-loud moments to tragic revelations, this tightly-choreographed production has it all – the pendulum swing of emotions keeping the audience guessing to the very last.

With the recession biting hard, Emily and Oliver bring their middle-class London lifestyle to a small town in the north of England.

One night they open their doors and invite next door neighbours, Dawn and Alan into their home. 

Over the course of a disastrous evening of stilted small talk and domestic bickering, hidden truths and dark pasts are painstakingly revealed, suspense and intrigue building towards a dramatic conclusion…

Alastair Whatley immerses himself in the role of browbeaten Oliver who, fresh from losing his London job, lacks a sense of purpose and fights a losing battle to contain his frustration as events conspire to leave his marriage hanging by a thread.

From the very opening moments, it is clear that there’s much more to Oliver’s wife Emily (Emily Bowker) than meets the eye. Bemoaning the failings of big business, politics and the education system, Emily hankers for a more liberated society, yet only when the proceedings take a more sinister turn do we learn how past experiences have truly shaped her character.  

Similarly, our first impressions of Al’s wife Dawn (Kerry Bennett) ultimately prove false, as piece by piece the puzzle of her character is put together, culminating in a powerful and emotive final scene.

Yet it is Graeme Brookes’ brilliant performance as self-confessed “straight outta the can” cider-swigging Al which truly lights up the stage. From his tactical analysis of the England football team’s failings, to shaky portraits of his beloved cat ‘Vince’, Al is the stereotype of the working class man, fiercely loyal to his family and country – but ultimately, as he confesses “dead boring”.

From abstract art to children’s toys, the carefully-chosen props and detailed set design immerse the audience in the action, while incisive use of lighting allows for sharp scene changes, enhancing the impact of this brilliant comedy drama.

Refreshing, original and above all, highly entertaining, this is a bold statement from an emerging writing talent, and another fine production from The Original Theatre Company to boot.

Invincible runs at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre until Saturday 9th April. To book tickets and find out more, call 01483 440000 or visit www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk