Bush Theatre presents THE INVISIBLE by Rebecca Lenkiewicz: Theatre Review

Rebecca Lenkiewicz is the only living female playwright to have conquered the National Theatre’s Olivier stage with an original play. That’s quite something isn’t it, to be the only one of your kind? An inspirational feat indeed, but one tinged with an air of disbelief and frustration that one of the world’s most influential theatres has royally failed to lead by example. But that’s a rant for another day…

You’ll excuse me then, given her legacy, for anticipating something pretty noteworthy when I booked in for Lenkiewicz’s latest offering, The Invisible, at the Bush Theatre. And of course, I was far from disappointed. My attraction to the play was more or less instantaneous as I was promptly drawn into Alexandra Gilbreath’s coolly disarming performance. She plays Gail, an impassioned legal aid lawyer deeply invested in her work and in the belief that she can really help people. But this is no courtroom drama, no Broadchurch Series 2. It is not bogged down with technicalities or exhaustive trial sequences; The Invisible is simply about our human right to justice and what happens when this is denied.

Gail works in a law centre providing help and consultation to people like Shaun and Aisha (superbly played by Niall Buggy and Sirine Saba respectively), victims of hardship and abuse that can barely afford to survive yet somehow manage to. Lenkiewicz’s focus is the human suffering caused by the legal aid cuts and it’s profoundly moving. Beautifully and eloquently written, The Invisible is loaded with sharp take-downs and coy humour as well as honesty and understanding.

It pains me that the production is not without its faults. Transitions between scenes are often unnecessarily long and turn into obscure dream sequences; a motif which becomes overused throughout and undermines the quiet omniscience of Lenkiewicz’s brilliant play. The play is however strong enough to withstand these questionable digressions and soon finds its feet again.

The Invisible is powerful in its simplicity and fulfils its purpose with subtlety and grace, not shirking its duty. It is completely upfront about its subject matter without ramming it down our throats and unashamed about where it sits in the argument concerning the debilitating cuts to legal aid. Reading the thoughts of my peers though, it seems a lot of them have a problem with Lenkiewicz showing such clear allegiance to one side of this argument without providing one to counter it. I say: so what!? I’ve seen argumentative plays; angry plays that bawl and scream and tear their opponents down. The Invisible is special because its strength is rooted in its authenticity; by wearing her heart on her sleeve and presenting her true feelings in the script, Lenkiewicz makes a bold statement. She does not sit on the fence or pretend to be something she’s not; her writing is full of integrity and that I truly admire.

I was left with a slight niggling frustration that when Gail’s law centre faces closure, she seems to yield without much of a fight. But that only emphasises what is so tragic about this situation: fighting is futile. We are ants under the Tory boot. ‘They cut, we bleed’.

© Hannah Roe, 2015



Written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz

Playing at the Bush Theatre

7 Uxbridge Road, London, W12 8LJ

Closes 15th August


Monday – Saturday evenings at 7.30pm

Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm





Director – Michael Oakley

Designer – Ruth Sutcliffe

Lighting Designer – Richard Howell

Sound Designer & Composer – Ed Clarke

Cast – Alexandra Gilbreath, Sirine Saba, Niall Buggy, Nicholas Bailey, Scott Karim


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