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A CurtainUp London London Review
The Invisible Man

We could order a whole new world - the shape of things to come. — The Invisible Man
The Invisible Man
John Gordon Sinclair as the invisible man & Maria Friedman as Mrs Hall
(Photo: Nobby Clark)
In the most refreshing entertainment for the holiday season, with the aid of an expert illusionist, Paul Kieve, the Chocolate Factory brings a production of Ken Hill's adaptation of HG Wells's story The Invisible Man. Directed by Ian Talbot who was formerly in charge at The Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, this original and inventive production captures the atmosphere of bygone music hall and the thrill of Victorian melodrama. Framed within a nineteenth century Pierrot show with all the cast in black and white suits and cone hats, the story is told of the chemist, Griffin (John Gordon Sinclair), for whom a disappearing act proved the problem rather than the solution.

It is the magic which is the real star of this show. Jaw dropping illusions are amazing as a quill pen seems to write all on its own, the pages of a newspaper turn unaided, a piano's keys move and sound without a hand and a glass of milk is half emptied! Things move around in the vicarage at Iping village without our seeing the perpetrator and the choreography as we watch people fighting with an invisible foe is outstanding and amusing.

There are also a range of very good performances. I particularly like Natalie Casey's expressive maid Millie, her range of facial contortion is perfect for this type of tongue in cheek performance. Jo Stone-Fewings has the right touch as the hearty but talented Squire Burdock, not as dim as the landed gentry are often supposed to be and his manservant Wicksteed (Christopher Godwin) who has led a varied life of many global occupational experiences. Maria Friedman plays Mrs Hall the well endowed landlady of the local inn whose twin assets draw the attention of the invisible man. Geraldine Fitzgerald is the intelligent and pipe smoking blue stocking Miss Statchell who tries to understand Griffin as everyone else in the village is convinced there is a malicious ghost in their midst. We only ever hear John Gordon Sinclair's voice, as even when his facial bandages are taken away there is nothing for us to see except the cigarette being smoked in a void. "How did they do that?" you will ask. Gary Wilmot is Thomas Marvel, a rural tramp who is called upon to be an accomplice to the invisible man.

Steven Edis' original music adds much atmosphere with its percussion special sound effects and the sepia painted backdrops are evocative of that theatrical era. It is a witty and light hearted event, this romp after the mayhem caused by the mystery man, rather than concentrating on the terrible predicament of the scientist whose experimentation has gone horribly wrong and who is the personification of "something nasty in the woodshed".

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The Invisible Man
Written by HG Wells
Adapted by Ken Hill
Directed by Ian Talbot

Starring: Maria Friedman, John Gordon Sinclair, Jo Stone-Ewings, Gary Wilmot
With: Gerard Carey, Natalie Casey, Michael Beckley, Teddy Kempner, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Christopher Godwin
Set designed by Paul Farnsworth
Costume design: Matthew Wright
Lighting: Jason Taylor
Composer: Steven Edis
Sound: Gareth Owen
Choreography: Sam Spencer-Lane
Running time: Two hours 15 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 7907 7060
Booking to 13th February 2011
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 25th November 2010 at the Menier Chocolate Factory, 53 Southwark Street, London SE1 1RU (Rail/Tube: London Bridge)

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