Invincible: the street that socialism forgot

Alan banging on about football even though no-one else is interested
Alan banging on about football even though no-one else is interested

Coming hot on the tails of successes for both author and company, Torben Betts’s Invincible is an deliciously excruciating yet profound exploration of Britain’s endless obsession with the class system.

So, Torben Betts round two and Original Theatre Company round two. After their respective successes last month with Get Carter and Flare Path, expectations were good for Invincible. As well as the recent performance of both writer and company, I’d heard a lot of good things about this play with its original run at the Orange Tree Theatre, on the subject of what many of us call Guardian-columnist socialism – that is, well-off people who think they’re all pro-working class but are pretty clueless about what the real working class are like. So it all looked rather promising to see a play about a London couple who are forced to move ‘oop north the slums of Newcastle-upon-Yorkshire where Thatcher closed the steel mines and they’ve never heard of cricket. So when we saw preparations for a visit from the neighbours and the works of Karl Marx are laid out on the table, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed.

Torben Betts isn’t the only playwright to be writing about this sort of culture clash; John Godber did an interesting job with Poles Apart last year, where a pro-working class actress and theatre manager got a rude awakening when bona fide working class scaffolders pay a visit. Godber’s play, however, was a subtle culture clash – Betts instead goes for a blatant and deliciously excruciating culture clash. Emily and Oliver begin preparing for a party with the kind of anxiety that only the wealthy middle class care about. Quite a lot of signs that Emily wears the trousers in this marriage, except that they’re not married because everyone knows that’s a patriarchal ploy to oppress women and Oliver is keen to express his non-sexist credentials by allowing his partner to make all the decisions. First to arrive is trashy Dawn, who seemingly has a thing for silver-spooned gentlemen; but before things get too out of hand on that front, in comes overweight husband Alan, whittering on about the football oblivious to the fact no-one else cares. But don’t worry, Emily helpfully explains to Alan that football is merely a ploy to suppress the working class from revolution because they’re so easily brainwashed. And that sets the tone of pretty much the whole party. Continue reading

Flare Path and German Skerries

So before Brighton Fringe coverage starts in earnest, let’s catch up on two plays from last month. Both are revivals of old but lesser-known works, both were competently produced, and whilst neither revival might have been the boldest of projects to take on, both were nice plays to watch.

Without further ado, let’s get going.

Flare Path

The commander gets some bad news on the phoneThis is play for the Original Theatre Company, who of course came to my attention two years ago with the excellent Birdsong. Sticking with the wartime theme, this time they are doing Flare Path, set in a bomber unit in World War Two. (Strictly speaking, this is joint venture between the Original Theatre Company and Birdsong Productions – I’m not sure why this difference matters myself, but they’ve previously asked me to clarify this. So that’s what it is folks.) Taking place over one night in a nearby hotel when the bombers are called for an unexpected mission, there are many different stories of the lives of the different pilots. The main story, however, is film star Peter Kyle who can come to tell dedicated pilot Teddy Graham that his wife, Patricia, is leaving him. Continue reading