There is rarely a doubt that any play the Original Theatre Company brings to Eastbourne is going to be good – and Invincible was certainly no exception.  This well cast, brilliantly performed four-hander was yet another treat for the large first night audience.  They could be left with little doubt that this might be about the north-south divide as they took to their seats in front of a backdrop dominated by Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North and some fairly derisory posters about the north of England – and a model railway set out across the width of the front of the stage!  Never has the Safety Curtain been lowered so gingerly as it was on this first night!

This play, written by Torben Betts and first performed in 2014 is billed as a comedy, but it is certainly a lot more than that. Betts – who is often compared to Ayckbourn (and actually worked as resident dramatist at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough) – started writing this play in 2012 around the time of the euphoria of the London Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and he is quoted as saying,  “… at the same time we were all feeling the recession, bankers were awarding themselves huge bonuses and soldiers were coming home in boxes from Afghanistan, so I couldn’t understand what we were celebrating, and I reflected my confusion in Invincible”.

By the end of the first half – which had the audience rolling in their seats with laughter – some were wondering how the humour of this seriously funny play with its embarrassing culture, class and north-south clashes could be successfully sustained through another hour.  Any such doubts quickly dissipated, as the second half – whilst retaining its element of humour – was altogether more dark, poignant and full of pathos.  Certainly, by the end of the play the clashing dynamics of these two poles-apart couples, gave the audience cause for thought as they left the theatre.

Front: Kerry Bennett, Emily Bowker Behind: Graeme Brookes, Tim Speechley, Felix Dunning, Alastair Whatley

Front: Kerry Bennett, Emily Bowker
Behind: Graeme Brookes, Tim Speechley, Felix Dunning, Alastair Whatley

It is small wonder that there was quite a large group of Friends gathered in the bar to welcome the four-strong cast and company after their first night performance.  It is always such a pleasure to see Alastair Whatley – this time treading the boards himself – and his fellow actors who, with one exception (Graham Brookes) were no strangers to the Eastbourne stage.

We wish them well for the rest of the tour and look forward to seeing Alastair back in a few months’ time.