[Review:] INVISIBLE, Bush Theatre, London.
We are presented with a pretty and clean set design (by Georgia Wilmot) as we enter the house, but its relevance to the performance remains entirely questionable, from the colour scheme to the incorporation of the LED lights (lighting design by Laura Howard). Costume, however, whilst perhaps unimaginative to some degree, is coherent and well designed.
As for the text itself, this performance suffers a great deal from superficiality, which I shall detail later. Its structure is repetitive and chaotic, and sociopolitical subtexts and messages fail to coincide harmoniously with plot and narrative, blatantly and uncooperatively crammed into the narrative.
Tension is handled very poorly in this performance, characteristically presented throughout by an increase in pacing, a discomforting sound or a cacophony of sounds, a gradual change in the overall lighting state, and then a break: one line from another character is delivered, usually a question, and then natural lighting re-consumes the stage, and delivery slows back down. This is a most clichéd and hence dissatisfying presentation. In its forced structure, a frustrating sense of artificiality and deliberateness. Increased tension should not be in the presentation of material but in the material itself.
The fragmented and frenetic structure of the text is, at first, dynamic and effective, evoking a good sense of the racing mind of our main character. However, once we come to realise that the entire play will be presented in this manner, not only does this play become monotonous, severely lacking in variation, but also this aforementioned sense of superficiality is born. Zayan (Nikhil Parmar) only glosses over each of the topics presented, failing to provide us with any profound or layered information on the contexts in which he finds himself. This lack of depth is further intensified by Parmar’s caricatural representations of his characters. The characters with which we are presented are immediately recognisable, which would be good in moderation, for pacing and dramatic purposes, but with all of the characters being presented in this manner, we lose any sense of unique identity, peculiarity and personality. The dying younger sister who encourages him in his endeavours, wise beyond her years; the ex’s new, impressive actor boyfriend, smug with his apparent accomplishments… These descriptions reflect the characters in their entireties; there is nothing more to them, and they add nothing more than rapid contextualisation to the text. These are shallow and quick-fire representations.
Moreover, Parmar fails to distinguish his characters coherently, especially towards the end as he comes to present every single one of them with the same [faltering] accent. And this brings me on to acting. Parmar retains an adequate energy throughout and has wonderful comedic timing, which is commendable, but he suffers from an explicit desire to exploit the audience-performer relationship, aiming solely to grab their attention with his representations. He spends the vast majority of the performance staring into specific audience members’ eyes, making his way around the house, addressing each of the four sections deliberately. This, combined with using all of the stage, from each side of the stage to the stage floor, makes for a most chaotic presentation, set on invoking a sense of urgency, rhythm and drama. The true effect is cheap sensationalism, depersonalisation — which is ironic, considering the performance’s primary subject matter — and, again, shallowness and monotony. In this way, this is a poor performance from Parmar, lacking in substance, naturalism and credibility.
However, I must stress that this is just as much a directorial issue (direction by Georgia Green) as it is an issue with acting, and many decisions, such as having Parmar stand in the audience, spotlit, to deliver his speech towards the end of the play, before his suit automatically rises like a ghost, on the back wall of the stage, concretise my reading that director Green desired this unnecessary sensationalism and symbolism just as much as writer-performer Parmar.
Despite its honourable objectives, aiming to demonstrate the depersonalisation and dehumanisation of the people who have become the objects of sociocultural and political discourses on culture/race and cultural/racial identity within woke and social justice culture, this performance falls short of articulacy and coherency. Ironically, whilst aiming to re-humanise and remind us of those that have been branded as the racialised Other and, specifically, those neither ‘fully white’ nor ‘fully black’ and so unaddressed within these binary-obsessed conversations, this performance actually presents us with a monolithic and caricatural representation. This performance needs considerable work, from restructuring text to reworking delivery to marrying underlying sociopolitical concepts with the rest of its material.