Mary Woodward Review

The Invisible Man,Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Review:

The Invisible Man, International Children’s Festival

**** (4 stars)

A man with black sparkly leggings, a head lamp and a headset is wandering around the stage and up and down the stairs each side of the audience, checking his watch – but hang on, he’s not wearing a watch..??! He spots that the drape on one of the flats is partly fallen, and goes off to fetch a ladder – but we can’t see the ladder when he brings it on stage, though we hear the clang when it hits one of the metal rods holding up the flats.  He climbs up behind the flat and fixes the drape.  He spots some rubbish on the floor and comes to sweep it up – the broom is invisible, but the rubbish is swept away…

A door at the back of the stage opens and closes and a spotlit circle travels across the floor towards the piano. The piano stool moves out, the cushion flattens, the stool moves back, the lid opens and the piano starts to play: we can see the keys move, but who is playing?  The techie introduces himself as Johan – standing in for René who is sick – and starts talking to “Rob” – who responds when he’s asked to do a sound test, but is obviously more interested in making loud noises than in being co-operative!  A pierrot, Nimüe, comes in – Johan can see her, and they try to talk, but Rob is playing loudly and they can’t hear each other.

They shout at Rob to stop – Johan and Nimüe are worried because although it’s time for the show to start they can’t see an audience: when they search the rest of the theatre, even upstairs the whole place is deserted. Rob, however, seems to know that we are there, and when he is alone asks us to make ourselves visible, which we do – but we have to disappear ourselves again as soon as anyone else comes on stage.   Marijn crawls on stage, but Johan and Nimüe can’t see him even when he’s crawling right by him – when Johan can see Marijn, Nimüe disappears…

It’s a wonderfully funny and silly show. René van‘t Hof, Marijn Brussaard and Nimüe Walraven challenge our perceptions of reality: we can clearly ‘see’ things that aren’t there – Johan’s watch, Nimüe’s phone – while they can’t see us, or the things and people that we can clearly see.  They have the audience laughing throughout as they chase each other round the stage [at one point a wee one was almost hysterical with laughter].  White-sheeted ‘ghosts’ appear and create further mayhem when the disappointed, audience-less actors try to strike the set.  Children in the audience, visible only to Rob, are drawn in to the show – one brave girl is sent to find Rob’s crisps, while a group of five are directed to set up a huge tv screen on which we see the reverse of what we see live in front of us – the visible become invisible, and vice versa – on the screen which also shows us a screen on which there is a screen, and the piano plays on …

The Invisible Man is a delight! If you revel in the absurd, want to try to puzzle out how it’s all done, want to see incredible mime, or just want a good laugh, head down to the Traverse this weekend and enjoy Theater Artemis’s contribution to the International Children’s Festival.  It’s aimed at four-year-olds and over but will appeal to older children and adults too.  The audience loved it, and I had a ball!

The Invisible Man, International Children’s Festival, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh run ends 2 June,  for tickets go to:

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