Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s The Invisible is an urgent play that succeeds at raising awareness without shouting its message directly to its audience. This new legal drama is about a fictional law centre where the main character, solicitor Gail works. While the law centre struggles to function due to the legal aid funding cuts, Gail has her issues of her own as she is trying to find a decent man who won’t try to use their date to get free legal advice from her. Only two years after LASPO (Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act), The Invisible really is a play of the now.
The show has many strong elements and truly draws you in. Ruth Sutcliffe’s simple yet brilliant design creates a menacing atmosphere: the countless dangling application forms above the minimalistic stage seem to represent the endless and often futile process of asking for legal help. Alexandra Gilbreath gives us a realistic and human Gail who is both strong and vulnerable. She is passionate about her job, she fights relentlessly, but she doesn’t always have all the answers. Gilbreath is able to show the whole spectrum, presenting not only the legal expert, but also the woman, while steering away from what might be considered the stereotypical solicitor.
As Lenkiewicz herself writes in the play: “We may not power-dress but we’re not a knitting circle”. In fact, The Invisible doesn’t show the typical lawyer in a suit with a briefcase yelling passionately in a courtroom; it shows everyday people and their struggles. And that is why Lenkiewicz’s writing is so brilliant: it makes you care about a simple man like Shaun, performed with delicate humour and heart-wrenching tragedy by Niall Buggy, who has to walk to the law centre because he cannot afford an oyster card. It is a true tragedy without any bells and whistles. The Invisible is about anyone, and it speaks to everyone.
The production, however, does have some weaker moments. The escapist fantasy sequences, where characters suddenly break out in singing or dancing seem unnatural rather than absurd, as they somehow do not fit the overall style and so end up feeling forced. And while most of the cast is able to deliver Lenkiewicz’s lines with subtlety, others get dangerously close to overacting and melodrama.
The Invisible is an important play, and it is simple enough to be understood by anyone. Theatre is an excellent way to give voice to those who will not be heard, and Lenkiewicz achieves this with graceful simplicity, without shouting.
The Invisible is playing Bush Theatre until 15 August. For more information and tickets, see the Bush Theatre website. Photo by Richard Davenport.