EFR - Reviews of Invisible Woman

Invisible Woman

Thu 6th – Sun 30th August 2015

reviews

Rowena Henley

at 22:35 on 8th Aug 2015

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Invisible Woman is a show that relies entirely upon the skill and stamina of its leading lady. Luckily, these were two qualities that Kate Cook had by the bucket load.

Cook’s performance followed the story of an ordinary woman with an equally ordinary name (Mrs. Bishop) who, by a strange and amusing series of coincidences, lands herself the job of a World War II secret agent. The trick was, however, that we never saw this woman - only the crackpot characters who surrounded her. It was an inventive and intriguing approach and one not without its risks. However, Cook’s methodology was nothing short of genius. Mrs. Bishop, despite never materialising, was as clear as day and her story hooked us from beginning to end.

Cook’s characters ranged from a doddering Scottish grandma to a Gestapo officer and everything in between. Each character was crisp and distinct from its predecessor, which is something rarely achieved in a show such as this. Minus a small hiccup (handled with grace and humour), the transitions from one persona to the next were seamless and kept the audience on its toes. Even the minor characters (a bus ticket attendant or a scatty secretary) came to life thanks to Cook’s assiduous energy and remarkable theatric ability. My personal favourite was Mrs. Bishop’s fellow secret agent and country bumpkin Florence, whose attempt at a French accent and nonchalance about a newly missing limb made for particularly entertaining moments.

The humour used in Invisible Woman was intelligent and understated. I was a little disappointed with its sparsity, however. Having come to a show that has ‘mercilessly funny’ emblazoned upon its poster, a few more comical moments would not have gone amiss. Having said that, the humour weaved itself into the text subtly and underpinned the show as a whole rather than appearing in stand out moments.

The technical elements of the show were minimal, but effective. Sound effects such as the scraping of knives and forks at a restaurant or the wind whistling past a moving train set the scene, but Cook did most of the work in terms of atmosphere.

‘Invisible Woman’ is most certainly worth a trip to Just The Tonic this Fringe. Kate Cook is a true talent and her show is unique in both its content and its conception.

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Holly Willis

at 09:05 on 9th Aug 2015

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Whilst any performance where I am offered Haribo upon arrival is sure to be a hit in my book, Kate Cook's Invisible Woman won me over with far more than just sweets. A talented comic actress, Cook adopts an array of diverse characters in this entertaining, and at times touching, tale of World War Two espionage.

Cook deserves serious credit for the breadth of her comic repertoire. She switches seamlessly between characters, portraying everything from a frail Scottish granny, to a petulant teenager and a stern wartime father. She plays male and female roles with equal conviction, and distinguished between her characters so well that whenever she switches roles, the new character is immediately recognisable. Most of the characters are stereotypes, but Cook is generally inventive with her script to avoid these seeming tired. Certain scenes involving a sergeant major character perhaps resemble an episode of ‘Blackadder’ a bit too closely. They are still very funny, but lacking a bit in originality.

There were one or two moments where Cook stumbled in this particular performance, most noticeably when she mistakenly introduced the wrong character. Yet she lost little audience support as she dealt with her error in good humour, cracking jokes while she rectified the mistake. It was noticeable for a minute or two afterwards that she had been slightly thrown by her mistake, as she seemed nervous in comparison to her usual confidence. Once she got back into the swing of things, her normal high standard of performance returned and remained for the rest of the show.

Cook uses sound effects well to help establish different characters and scenarios. In a restaurant scene, for example, she has the sound of knives and forks clinking in the background. Another scene on a train is complemented with the faint noise of an engine and moving wheels. The minimal set, which comprises simply of a chair and a lightbulb dangling from the ceiling, is also used to great effect. In one inventive scene, the lightbulb and chair are used aggressively as tools of interrogation. In her use of both set and tech, Cook makes a little go a long way so that the performance is subtly improved rather than overdone.

The performance overall is polished and slick, and Cook maintains her energy level well throughout. There were one or two obvious mistakes that caused it to fall a little short, as did the fact that some of the jokes felt a little recycled. Despite the occasional slip-up, however, the witty script and excellent acting this is still definitely worth a watch.

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