“When I was growing up the poor were seen as unfortunates. Now they’re seen as manipulative. Grasping. Scroungers. It’s very sad”
Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s new drama The Invisible finds itself caught between two stools really – nominally a play about the effects of the decimating cuts to the Legal Aid system, it tries so hard not to be full of such dry legalese, instead focusing on the lives of the people who would use it – who desperately need it – that it almost goes too far in becoming something else entirely. Sponsored by The Law Society as it is with a supporting leaflet giving facts and figures, it’s thus a surprise that this is how it plays out.
At the heart of it all in Gail, an overworked solicitor working in a London law centre that is being threatened with closure due to Coalition cuts and from her spins the spider-web of stories. Like the Irishman who can’t pay his bills, or the Pakistani housewife being abused by her husband and mother-in-law. Gail tries to find some respite in online dating but even there she’s tracked down by a man looking for free legal advice – Lenkiewicz leaves us in no doubt as to just how many people have relied on this service and now find themselves in dire straits.
But ultimately she does focus too much on them and the minutiae of their lives. Impressively portrayed by the wonderful Alexandra Gilbreath, Gail’s worldview is never challenged and whilst I don’t think many would agree with these cuts, there’s no substantial intellectual interrogation of what it really means to her or the wider world outwith these people here. The situation is illuminated by Lenkiewicz’s writing but more elucidation is also needed to drive the message home more forcefully.
Michael Oakley’s production allows itself to get a tad distracted too – the musical interludes add little of value and random fantasy scenes sap interest from what should be more vital, the natural flow of the drama constantly being disrupted. Niall Buggy and Sirine Saba offer up strong performances in their multi-roling, Scott Karim’s Pakistani husband is also vividly essayed, but for all of its good intentions, one does end up longing for a better play.