×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Invisible Man

If you're after thoughtful take on H.G. Wells' classic 'Invisible Man' you won't know where to look.

With:
Griffin John Gordon Sinclair Mrs. Hall Maria Friedman Thomas Marvel Gary Wilmot Miss Statchell Geraldine Fitzgerald

The introductory number to Ken Hill’s “The Invisible Man” is a hymn to 1904. That’s the year in which this tale, of a mysterious bandaged man who appears (only just) in a small Sussex village, is set. But 1904 is evoked more vividly than director Ian Talbot intends – in that his corny but spirited production, and most of Hill’s jokes, might be more at home there. Those in the mood for a festive pantomime, with added low-level chills and some tingly trompes l’oeil from illusionist Paul Kieve, will be well satisfied. But if you’re after a thoughtful or sophisticated take on H.G. Wells’ classic novella – well, you won’t know where to look.

Unlike the Menier’s “Sweet Charity” and “La Cage aux Folles,” this knockabout revival is unlikely to reach the West End. But that’s not the only badge of success – and what the show lacks in quality, it amply supplies in bonhomie. The style is dictated by Hill’s framing device, which presents the Invisible Man story as a dramatic entertainment at an Edwardian music hall. Designer Paul Farnsworth suggests the village of Iping and its surrounds with a series of retracting painted screens. In front of these rudimentary backdrops, Gary Wilmot’s jaunty tramp Marvel narrates the events that unfold when see-through scientist Griffin (John Gordon Sinclair) takes up lodging at Mrs. Hall’s inn, and launches his demented plan to slaughter the world’s tyrants and assume global power to his invisible self.

Hill’s 1991 revamp of Wells becomes less interesting when Griffin is revealed to be just another megalomaniac. Until that point, Gordon Sinclair’s hissing loner has been an ambiguous figure; an antihero, even. After all, Hill’s script – following the fashion of his mentor, dissenting 1960’s director Joan Littlewood – is as suspicious as Griffin is of traditional authorities. His village policeman, Jaffers (Teddy Kempner), is corrupt and cowardly. And the village aristocrat, Squire Burdock (Jo Stone-Fewings), is, at least initially, a moonstruck buffoon.

The anti-establishment worldview is confined to wisecracks, though, and certainly doesn’t extend to any theatrical radicalism. The show’s prevailing style is slapstick and ripe ham-acting, which stays just the right side of bearable thanks to a 10-strong cast whose enjoyment is infectious. (Natalie Casey as the maid Millie is a particular pleasure.) Proceedings are never funnier than when the actors simulate mortal combat with their transparent assailant – or, in other words, fight with themselves. Elsewhere, the Invisible Man’s presence is evoked through often creaky but always beguiling illusions: knives hovering at throats, a chest of drawers searched by unseen hands and Griffin unravelling his swaddled face to reveal an empty void, eerily blowing smoke from a lit cigarette. Talbot’s revival is as shallow as its two-dimensional backdrops – but it’s not without the occasional thrill.

The Invisible Man

Menier Chocolate Factory, London; 165 seats; £33.50 top

Production: A Menier Chocolate Factory production of a play by Ken Hill, based on the novel by H.G. Wells. Directed by Ian Talbot. Illusions, Paul Kieve; design, Paul Farnsworth; costumes, Matthew Wright; lighting, Jason Taylor; composer-musical director, Steven Edis; choreography, Sam Spencer-Lane; production manager, Simon Sturgess. Opened November 24, 2010. Reviewed November 25. Runs through Feb 13. Running time: 2 HOUR, 25 MIN.

Cast: Griffin John Gordon Sinclair Mrs. Hall Maria Friedman Thomas Marvel Gary Wilmot Miss Statchell Geraldine FitzgeraldWith: Gerard Carey, Natalie Casey, Teddy Kempner, Michael Beckley, Jo Stone-Fewings, Christopher Godwin.

More Legit

  • CAROL CHANNING HERSCHFELD. Actress Carol Channing

    Remembering Carol Channing: A Master of Channeling the Power of Personality

    There was only one Carol Channing, and her outsize personality was a source of delight to many fans — and imitators. Gerard Alessandrini’s stage spoof “Forbidden Broadway” had many incarnations over the years, including the 1994 edition when an audience member was selected every evening to come onstage and impersonate Carol Channing with the cast. [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda Among Celebrities Remembering Carol Channing

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bernadette Peters are among the slew of celebrities taking to Twitter to pay tribute to late singer, comedienne and actress Carol Channing. Known for her starring roles in Broadway’s “Hello Dolly!” and “Gentleman Prefer Blondes,” the legend of the stage and screen died Tuesday at her home in Rancho Mirage, [...]

  • What the Constitution Means to Me

    Listen: How Things Got Scary in 'What the Constitution Means to Me'

    For a decade, writer-performer Heidi Schreck had wanted to write a play inspired by her experiences as a teen debater. But over the years the show started to develop into something both urgently political and deeply personal — and things got scary. In the Broadway-bound “What the Constitution Means to Me,” Schreck reimagines her speech-and-debate [...]

  • Carol Channing Dead

    Carol Channing, Star of Broadway's 'Hello, Dolly!' and 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,' Dies at 97

    Larger-than-life musical stage personality Carol Channing, who immortalized the characters of Lorelei Lee in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and Dolly Gallagher Levi in “Hello, Dolly!,” has died. She was 97. Channing died Tuesday of natural causes at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. More Reviews Album Review: Maggie Rogers' 'Heard It in a Past Life' Concert [...]

  • 'What the Constitution Means to Me'

    'What the Constitution Means to Me' Transfers to Broadway

    “What the Constitution Means to Me,” a buzzy Off-Broadway production that counts Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem among its fans, is making the move uptown. The play will come to Broadway this spring for a 12-week limited run at the Helen Hayes Theater. “What the Constitution Means to Me” is one part civics lesson, one [...]

  • Choir Boy review

    Broadway Review: 'Choir Boy'

    Honestly, I was afraid that “Choir Boy” — the sweetly exuberant account of a gifted prep school boy’s coming of age, written by “Moonlight” Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney — would be swallowed up in a Broadway house, after winning us over in an Off Broadway staging in 2013.  But aside from the odd set [...]

  • Jason Robert Brown

    Listen: How Ariana Grande Got Jason Robert Brown to Madison Square Garden

    Broadway composer Jason Robert Brown never expected to find himself performing onstage at Madison Square Garden. But he did — thanks to his pal Ariana Grande. Brown met Grande before she was a superstar, when she was in the 2008 Broadway cast of his teen musical “13.” The two have kept in touch ever since [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content