Review: Invisible – New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

Our society is an ever shifting medley of characters shaped by the influence of cultures from around the world. In the past this influence has come from the countries historical roots as a major seafaring and trading nation, but now it’s just as likely to be shaped by economic migration. Despite centuries of migration communities are perhaps more isolated than ever before, unaware of those around them.

Tena Štivičić’s play looks at two distinct sectors of the community, both interacting but never fully recognising each other until a fateful event throws them violently together. They are indeed, as the title suggests invisible to each other.

There is though another level of obscurity here, the faceless voice of authority – here never seen, portrayed as a disembodied voice behind a frosted screen. Frustrating and rigid, never comprehending the human impact of the procedure.

Two sectors of society, ‘Fortress Europe’ and ‘The Others’ go about their daily lives virtually isolated. Migrants struggle to integrate and comprehend the workings of their new home while longer term residents struggle with the prospect of understanding new cultural opportunities.

This is an epic, weighty piece with interwoven threads never fully unravelling until the final moments and running at two hours without an interval it is often gruelling viewing.

Štivičić’s script is impressive in its breadth but it feels like it is attempting to cover too much, with the result that some scenes resemble little more than sketchy outlines than fully fledged drama. As such the script could easily be trimmed making for a much tighter narrative and greater impact.

There is some powerful dialogue in the piece and the end confrontation between the two communities is beautifully written but other scenes, such as the comic look at American immigration interviews, though nicely performed, add little to the narrative drive.

The scale of ambition also means that we only ever get fleeting glances of many of the characters. Perhaps this is intentional; to represent the constant see of human traffic, but it makes for fragmentary viewing.

The international company provide an impressive ensemble performance with Anna Elijasz and Jon Foster’s final duet being particularly memorable.

Douglas Rintoul’s direction, together with Darren Johnston’s choreography plays up the ebb and flow motion of migration, though at times the stylised movement does detract the eye from what is essentially the intimate.

Invisible is an epic attempt to capture epic themes and is impressive in its scale and performance, ultimately though the attempt to cover so much results in a weakening of the whole. With some judicious cutting there is potential for a gripping play here. In the current form however, it still seems a work in transit.

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