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Published 16 July 2014

What’s it all about?

The recession has hit, and Emily and Oliver have downsized to the north to live with “the real people”, start an art cooperative and work freelance from the garden. When they invite their neighbours Alan and Dawn over for an evening of olives and conversation, hilarity ensues as the organic anchovies go down like a lead balloon and Emily’s socialist debate is met with blank faces.

Don’t be fooled by this sweeping description, however. What starts out as a simple satirical comedy about a clash of classes soon becomes something far more substantial as Torben Betts’ hugely witty piece reveals a series of twists and turns that have the audience moving from tears of laughter to just tears with its unexpectedly heart-wrenching second act.

Who’s in it?

The foursome from Ellie Jones’ original Orange Tree Theatre production joyfully reunites for its transfer. Laura Howard is brilliant as the brittle Emily: a domineering matriarch who feels morally betrayed by her husband joining Labour and whose neuroticism has reach such levels as to cause even the guinea pigs to be anxious. Samantha Seager gives a moving performance as Emily’s more complex than first thought polar opposite Dawn. Darren Strange is poignantly hilarious as the browbeaten Oliver who becomes an unlikely cat murderer, while Daniel Copeland is both heart-warming and infuriating as the beer-swilling, cheery Alan whose inability to listen and look further than the next England game has devastating consequences.  

What should I look out for?

Sam Dowson’s gloriously bourgeois set, filled with Emily’s abstract art and miniature Birkenstocks for the children frequently mentioned but never seen. Its walls are streaked with Farrow & Ball paint samples and a variety of Buddhist trinkets take pride of place on the reclaimed wood furniture that are later revealed to be excellent hiding places for a sneaky bottle of Bordeaux … or two… or three…   

In a nutshell?

Torben Betts’ hilarious comedy may draw you in with its rare laugh-out-loud script, but it sustains with unexpectedly moving twists and a deeper exploration of happiness, discontentment and the grey areas between.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@adamski1974 Brilliant night @St_JamesTheatre for Invincible seeing @CopelandDan. Excellent play and pin sharp performances. Must see.

@RobiMax 1st Night of ‘Invincible’ at St James Theatre last night – Brilliantly funny play, brilliant cast. Come see it!!

Will I like it?

Torben Betts is continually likened to Alan Ayckbourn and Mike Leigh, and justifiably so. His writing is clever, poignant without being overly emotional, fiercely witty and spot-on observant. Forget the stand-ups at the Edinburgh Festival, you need look no further than the St James Theatre for your comedy fix this summer.

Invincible is playing until 9 August. You can book tickets through the St James Theatre’s website.


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