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The Theatreguide.London Review

The Invisible
Bush Theatre   Summer 2015

A danger inherent in writing out of passion and anger is that the passion and anger can get in the way of the writing. Rebecca Lenkiewicz feels very strongly about the subject of her new play, but she hasn't written a successful play on the subject. 

The Invisible is about legal aid for the poor, a system of dedicated, overstretched and underfunded lawyers currently being even further crippled by government cuts in the name of austerity. 

The heroine, Gail, runs a one-woman-plus-secretary office serving those who have no other access to the justice system. In the course of the play she offers what help she can to an old man losing his housing, a younger man fighting for access to his children and an abused wife looking for escape, along with a few others we only hear about. 

In a couple of comic-pathetic interludes we also see Gail reaching desperately for some private life through computer-dating, to show that the world is even fuller of unhappy people, and even her secretary has boyfriend problems generated by her overwork. 

The whole thing is just too schematic and undeveloped to have dramatic reality. You can almost see Lenkiewicz ticking off the checklist, making sure she fits in one of these and one of those and at least a mention of another. 

I understand completely why she leaves most of the cases either unresolved or unhappily resolved – it is central to her despairing vision of the legal aid system that she not give a false impression of success, hope or even closure. But it makes for unsatisfying drama. 

The first act is taken up almost entirely by just introducing everyone, and you are likely to sit through it wondering when the play will find a plot. And then you spend the second act realizing that it's never going to, that a very big part of her vision is that nothing begins, nothing ends, and it all just staggers on. 

Handed out along with your programme is a separate booklet written by various legal authorities making the same argument as the play, that the legal aid system is staggering under enormous case loads and criminal underfunding. 

It actually makes the case more effectively and more movingly than the play, exposing how very little Lenkiewicz adds to the argument by putting it onstage. 

As Gail, Alexandra Gilbreath captures the almost burnt-out dedication of the woman but hasn't been given enough in the writing to help her communicate why the woman won't or can't give up. 

Most of the other characters are conceived as single-note case studies rather than rounded humans, and only Niall Buggy, doubling as the soon-to-be-homeless man and a particularly desperate blind date, is able to bring much dimension and reality to his roles.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - The Invisible - Bush Theatre 2015

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