In a little less than two years since it opened, Victoria’s purpose-built, marble-staircase touting St James Theatre has developed an enviable reputation for finding the finest productions in regional and fringe theatres, and giving them an opportunity to play in central London.
The latest addition to its roster, which includes The Thrill Of Love, IN THE NEXT ROOM or the vibrator play and Cinderella: A Fairytale, is Torben Betts’ Orange Tree Theatre hit Invincible.
Written by Betts, whose work has been championed by none other than Alan Ayckbourn, Invincible is the tale of middle class Londoners who move to a small northern town. Intent on getting to know their neighbours, they invite the couple next door over for an evening of chat and nibbles, but differences in outlook lead to consequences both tragic and hilarious.
As Invincible prepares to begin its Victoria run, we quizzed cast members Darren Strange, Daniel Copeland, Samantha Seager and Laura Howard to discover more about the show, their most awkward moments and what will push them to the brink of breaking with politeness:
How would you describe your character?
Strange: Oliver is a Civil Servant and I think that describes him perfectly. He is both ‘civil’ and a ‘servant’. He does everything he can to avoid confrontation at every juncture. He loves his mum.
Copeland: Alan is a friendly, chatty almost superhumanly optimistic man who loves his family, his cat and football.
Seager: Dawn is a straight talking Lancashire lass, down to earth, a bit tarty, bored with her lot and looking for some excitement!
Howard: Mother, partner to Oliver, artist, activist. Emily wants desperately to be a good person and to do the right thing, though how she goes about it tends to rub others up the wrong way. I love her, though not everyone will.
What’s your favourite moment in show?
Strange: Almost everything that Alan says. Although at one point he uses the term “nudity department” which may be my favourite line of all time.
Copeland: It’s tricky to say without giving anything away, but I love it all. We’ve been re rehearsing and it’s a great chance to get to see all the brilliant work Laura and Darren do as Emily and Oliver, and I’m keen on the scene that me and Sam have together.
Seager: My favourite moment in the show is watching Dan singing Please Mr Postman.
Howard: There’s too many to pick from and some that if mentioned would spoil the plot, but I especially love the moment when we (Oliver & Emily) and the audience first meet Alan. That and Alan’s rendition of Please Mr Postman.
Invincible follows an awkward evening. What is your most memorably awkward moment?
Strange: My life is merely a string of awkward moments. I have a big mouth and small feet and frequently say the wrong thing – especially in front of directors, casting directors and potential employers.
Copeland: I once accidentally forgot to unlock a door before entering on stage, I was heaving on the handle and nearly brought the set down. The rest of the cast had to grab the set and push it back up by which time I’d realised my mistake and unlocked the door, I then had to enter and do my scene with everyone looking at me like “What on Earth were you doing ?”.
Seager: My most awkward moment was auditioning for Roxie in Chicago and wearing fillet breast implants to give me a ‘boost’. As I was doing the finale of the set dance routine, one of them slipped all the way down through my leggings and flopped out at my feet. I kicked it off stage and another actress in the wings kicked it back on! Awkward and embarrassing.
Howard: I sometimes feel like a walking awkward moment.
What will push you past the point of being polite?
Strange: I am not very good with lateness. I always endeavour to be on time and I cannot abide people sidling in 20 minutes late with no apology. When I say ‘cannot abide’ I actually mean simmer quietly to myself.
Copeland: It takes a lot. Stupidity will do it sometimes.
Seager: Unlike Dawn I am always polite!
Howard: Very little.… though on the odd occasion a hidden microphone in my car might tell another story…
A pie and a pint or cheese and wine?
Strange: Please may I have a cheese pie and a pint of wine?
Copeland: Pie and a pint. Pint would be a Harveys or Sam Smith’s and the pie would probably be beef and ale, though I am rather fond of those Pieminister pies, there’s a fantastic real ale pub in Taunton that serves them and Otter ales, it’s called The Plough I think.
Seager: Pie and pint (although these days alcohol free lager and vegetarian pie… I have become very boring in my old age, Dawn would be appalled!)
Howard: Can I please have a pint of lager shandy and some brie? And crackers?
How will you be spending your days during the run?
Strange: I am looking forward to spending lots of time with my family. I have three children and I am planning lots of days out with them all. I teach at GSA and Hurtwood House, so like most teachers, I will be preparing for next term.
Copeland: I will be going to the gym (honest, I will), watching Breaking Bad, and possibly doing a free online course with FutureLearn.
Seager: Looking after my kids, it’s the summer holidays.
Howard: If I’ve got nothing else on, my default setting for show days is a little lie in, chanting, reading and pottering.
What can audiences expect from the show?
Strange: Torben is an extraordinary playwright. His play is remarkably constructed, the audience will be led through a whole spectrum of emotions and are never allowed to rest for a second. This is no ordinary comedy of manners, his play goes to much deeper and darker territory.
Copeland: A fabtastically written comedy of manners, class and politics. It’s funny and sad and moving. A lot of people laugh and cry. There are beautifully written moments where everything in the play changes, and terrific performances from Sam, Laura and Darren.
Seager: The audience can expect a lot of laughs, a cracking story with some great twists, lovable characters, interesting politics and some very touching moments too.
Howard: A thought-provoking play of ideas and a comedy of bad manners.