Review: Invincible, St James Theatre

“We want to live our lives on a more human scale”

Back in 2012, Laura Howard gave a truly exceptional performance in Lost In Yonkers, something truly unexpected in its devastatingly deep emotion and so the thought of being able to see her onstage again was an exciting one. Sadly for me, her choice of return to the London stage was a farce, Torben Betts’ Invincible to be precise, which played Richmond’s Orange Tree earlier this year, making it easier for me to ignore. It has now however transferred to the St James thus wearing down my resistance, if not my natural antipathy to this form of theatre.

And sure enough, it really just wasn’t my cup of tea. A domestic farce taking Ayckbourn as its inspiration, a middle class London couple Emily and Oliver relocate to the working class north and they don’t automatically get on with their neighbours Dawn and Alan – such larks! Everything is up for debate – art, the war, politics, the financial crisis, family – and everything has deeper meaning than at first glance – both Emily and Alan paint, the patriotism here is personal, parenthood is precarious on both sides.

But it is all just so schematic, the division between those sides so ham-fistedly executed and the characterisations all sides so crudely drawn that I found it impossible to engage at all in Ellie Jones’ production. Performances can’t be criticised as Daniel Copeland and Samantha Seager as the Northerners and Laura Howard and Darren Strange as the Southerners all manage to excavate some kind of meaning out of the cliché-ridden construction but as the play winds to its distasteful conclusion, I was definitely left wishing I’d heeded my initial instincts about Invincible. 

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 9th August 

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