There are some venues that can always be relied upon to promote out of the mainstream shows of generally good quality and The Space in London’s Docklands is certainly one of these. As well as returning to live performance, they have been experimenting with live streaming and recordings of the latter are then made available as on demand recordings. The Cloak Of Visibility is one such example of this having played at the venue in early June – and if you missed it or were simply unable to get there, then there is ample time to play catch up.
It’s a monologue piece which takes a long hard look at a woman teetering on the edge (by the end, literally) as modern life brings her success and happiness which is apparent rather than real. Ostensibly Amy has it all – a solid relationship, children, a career, a hectic social life, an exercise regime, etc. but the demands of the various aspects of her life gradually take their toll and even when we first meet the character there is something about the almost over false cheeriness and fixed grin which should tell us there is more going on than she is telling us.
She is so busy working in events management for a boss many years her junior that she forgets to take care of herself. Her plight is summed up neatly via the symbolism of the high heeled shoes she has to wear to work (it’s in the dress code) which pain her and even cause blood to flow, to realise her precarious position.
In a moment of epiphany Amy stops to look at an expensive dress in a shop window; she is late for work and the result for her is job loss – the boss tells her to make herself invisible. She does but can barely admit to herself or to anyone else what has happened and continues to pretend that everything is normal. It is far from that and, in a change of gear, events start to spiral out of control. Her problems go unnoticed and she resolves to correct this by reversing the idea from Harry Potter, and make herself a garment which cannot be ignored.
Thus, the cloak of visibility is fashioned; it is a patchwork, glittery affair which certainly makes her stand out from the crowd; it might even get her noticed again. It is not particularly clear from writer Louise Breckon-Richards’ script whether the cloak is a mental or physical construct but I’m not sure that altogether matters. Like the shoes the symbolism is what matters though dramatically it was good to see it materialise. While it certainly makes Amy more confident and forthright it does seem to tip her over the edge into full breakdown mode – the denouement is chilling.
Sally Vanderpump has great stage presence as Amy guiding us subtly through the changes which occur to her character and keeping the audience onside. Earlier in the play she emphasises the underpinning gentle humour and self-deprecation and later becomes more forthright and a touch grittier. In the final moments her mixture of determination and desperation gives us a fully rounded portrayal of someone in turmoil with herself. The “voices” of other characters perhaps do not come over as clearly as they might. Charissa Martinkauppi’s direction is direct and economical as is the set which keeps things simple. The piece seems to have been filmed on two different cameras on varied settings (or is of two different performances spliced together) so there are some disconcerting jumps. However, they are not totally inimical to the style of the play itself so perhaps they are intentional.
While this play may not particularly break any new ground thematically or stylistically it is a solid enough piece which plays well and will give pause for thought. The character of Amy could almost be one of the mums in the BBC Comedy Motherland which shares some of the same angsty humour. So, if you’re currently enjoying that I think you’ll appreciate The Cloak Of Visibility. One thing is for sure – it’s a long way from Harry Potter.