Theatre Review: The Invisible ManPosted on: 08 December 2010 by Rhian Mainwaring
A man in a dressing-gown unpeels the bandages that cover his face to reveal a headless torso with a cigarette dangling in mid-air.
This astonishing feat is one of many in Ian Talbot’s hugely enjoyable revival of Ken Hill’s 1991 retelling of H.G. Wells’s classic The Invisible Man (Menier Chocolate Factory), staged as a joyous comedy, music hall spectacular.
Set in 1904 in the village of Iping, the local inhabitants recount the mysterious happenings of the week that the sinister Griffin arrived wrapped in bandages, wearing a pair of sunglasses, and with a distinctly unsociable manner. It turns out that Griffin’s condition was due to a chemical experiment that went wrong and proved irreversible and he is now looking for his ex-partner who stole his secrets. Needless to say Griffin’s ability to transform himself into an invisible man and exert a rare power over others leads to mayhem not only for this small village but the country as a whole.
Combining tongue-in-cheek humour – ‘he’s (the invisible man) gone off his rocker and thinks he’s God, he should be in politics!’, quips the buxom innkeepers – with thrilling drama, this new take on an old tale does not delve as deeply as Wells’s original work but still manages to convey the essence of the novel, while providing an absorbing evening in the theatre.
Director Ian Talbot draws convincing performances from John Gordon Sinclair, who despite his lack of visibility, perfectly conveys the deeply ingrained torment of the hero bent on revenge, Maria Friedman, in a non-singing role, brings real gusto to the role of innkeeper, an epitome of narrow-minded prejudice, and Gary Wilmot as a likeable tramp who befriends Griffin.
But there is no denying the real star of the show is the unseen Paul Kieve whose jaw-dropping special effects and ingenious illusions – in one scene a bread knife with no visible wires hovers in the air and threatens the throat of the innkeeper, in another a curtain mysteriously opens, draws are rifled and papers displace, all by unseen hands – create a bewildering sense of wonder and awe and make the strange events depicted seem almost plausible.
This is truly magical entertainment for the whole family with more than a touch of darkness underneath.
By Laurence Green
Play until: February 13 2011
Box office: 0207 907 7060
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