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Invincible, St James Theatre, review: A fresh and punchy production

Alan Ackybourn-inspired play charts middle class refugees of the recession

Paul Taylor
Thursday 17 July 2014 13:25 BST
Darren Strange (Oliver), Laura Howard (Emily), Dan Copeland (Alan) and Samantha Seager (Dawn) in Invincible at St James Theatre
Darren Strange (Oliver), Laura Howard (Emily), Dan Copeland (Alan) and Samantha Seager (Dawn) in Invincible at St James Theatre (James Albrecht)

Torben Betts's latest work begins as robust social comedy and then shades into something darker and more disturbing.

Written firmly in the Alan Ayckbourn tradition, it manages to have its fun with stereotypes while dismantling them and in the process becomes a keenly perceptive play-for-today.

Laid-off civil servant Oliver and his partner Emily, a Marxist/Buddhist painter (Darren Strange and Laura Howard) are middle-class refugees of the recession. Having up sticks and moved north, they invite their new neighbours – Daniel Copeland's beer-bellied postman Alan and Samantha Seager's orange dental receptionist Dawn – over for drinks.

Cue an occasion of excruciating awkwardness in which it becomes plain that Emily's relentlessly proselytising socialism does not preclude a patronising dislike for actual working people and that the ever-conciliatory soft-Liberal Oliver is a bit of shifty shit.

Then a remark about Tony Blair's war-mongering touches a raw nerve and we begin to discover that these resounding class caricatures have painful (perhaps over-complementary) back stories.

The cast in Ellie Jones's fresh, punchy production – which has transferred from Richmond's excellent Orange Tree Theatre, very regrettably just abandoned by the Arts Council – expertly tread the line between hilarity (there's very funny cross-purpose farce involving a murdered cat) and heartache.

More than ever, we see in the post-recession times depicted here, it's those with inherited wealth who will inherit the earth.

9 August; 0844 264 2140

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