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