Read back through many reviews at The Space and the common thread is that there is an excitement about any play there; that good or bad, you at least know they were willing to take a risk. Of course, by visit I currently mean taking advantage of their impressive (bar one rogue camera with totally different resolution that needs to be binned immediately) livestreaming service, which in itself is opening their plays up to a whole new audience, viewers now logging in not just from the UK but overseas as well.
So, even after a less than fulfilling show last time out, I still settled down with high expectations of what delights were ahead of me. There was a strange pleasure in the slight delay to the start time, due to a full (socially-distanced of course) house. I mean, who could begrudge a small wait because so many people had made the effort to actually get to the theatre?
Louise Breckon-Richards‘ The Cloak of Visibility introduces us to Amy, wonderfully portrayed by Sally Vanderpump. From the outset, it appears Amy has it all; successful career, perfect family, and of course, the all-important work-life balance. Except, well, is that actually true, or is she hiding behind a cloak? Because as Amy slowly lets the cloak slip, we start to see what is truth and what is in fact part of her fantasy world, created to protect herself from reality.
At an hour long, this show only comes into its own as it hurtles towards a conclusion, which seems more and more inevitable as it approaches. For much of the opening thirty minutes the clues are dropped in subtly, so much so that you can very easily miss them as almost being irrelevancies. In fact, it really could do with a second viewing to see how many you’ve missed once you know the truth of what Amy is hiding in plain sight, if only we took more notice of her. Maybe she isn’t the cool mum, doesn’t have the perfect marriage, isn’t the irreplaceable employee. Maybe that is simply what she portrays because it is what is expected of a woman of her age.
For all its serious message about the pressures on older women and the way society can discard them, Breckon-Richards’ writing is full of glorious humour. Even as Amy slowly descends from well-dressed professional lady to one more likely to be seen pushing a shopping trolley full of her belongings down the road, there is still much that draws laughter. The revealing of the titular cloak of visibility, complete with glitter that dazzles as it flies through the air is genuinely laugh out loud funny, even as you realise how ridiculous it is. As for her demonstrating why she is still young at heart by performing a ‘slut drop’, breath is held, worried she will do herself an injury. There is also a very unexpected, and probably ill-placed, delight in witnessing Amy becoming a crazed tube train stalker, that weird person who you really can’t get away from quickly enough.
The Cloak of Visibility is a wonderfully written piece of theatre, the subtleness of it all, the humour, the slow descent into mental health issues, all creep up rather unexpectedly. All contribute to making this a play that could easily reward repeat viewings. And even though I’m watching the livestream, there is such delight in hearing a real audience watching along with you from the theatre. It really makes you realise just how great live theatre is for the heart.
Written by: Louise Breckon-Richards
Directed by: Charissa Martinkauppi
Produced by: Marie-Elena Nash for Antandre Productions
The Cloak of Visibility is available on-demand until 19 June. Full details via the below link.