Nikhil Parmar’s one-man show, originally written as a TV pilot, manages to touch on a wide range of themes from Islamophobia to modern fatherhood with hilarity and deftness without feeling intellectually cluttered or preachy. In contrast to some big epic dramas with large casts and elaborate sets that each seek to be ‘a play of ideas’ (and in many cases cram too much in and fail) within a tight hour, Invisible flits from topic to topic in a wacky and slightly surreal way, provoking more thought than many ‘meatier’ two-act dramas.
For one thing, Parmar is an excellent physical comedian. With movement direction from Diane Alison-Mitchell, Parmar’s performance is one of total embodiment and commitment to each moment. He is graceful, elastic, and when called for, clownish. The writer-performer is also an excellent mimic and very capably tells a story as the lead character, supporting character and narrator with perfect clarity, and characterisation, about who is speaking. He manages a breath-taking ‘two-hander’ as a single actor when re-enacting an urban legend about what might happen if the ‘brown man’ threatening the ‘famous actor’ in a spy thriller led to actual violence and ultimate social change.
Structurally, Parmar’s script breaks the fourth wall just enough to set the tone and deepen engagement without labouring it nor, despite being incredibly funny, limiting itself as a stand-up shtick. Invisible is a proper play about people, relationships, dreams, racism, rage, opportunity, culture and family – told very well with great pace and style.
Georgia Green’s direction handily supports the timing with enough variety between racing forward and having time to catch our breath as challenging thoughts and simple human stories unfold. With the assistance of Laura Howard’s lighting and Bella Kear’s sound design, Green ably engages in a bit of theatrical misdirection to create suspense in the purest of ways in the pared-back studio space.
Although Parmar, who has already appeared in several significant TV productions, sees himself as an actor first, I am keen to see what he’ll write next too. He is a consummate entertainer but also an able intellect and intriguing storyteller. Invisible is short, punchy, fun and an excellent amuse-bouche for an evening of ideas.
Review by Mary Beer
Meet Zayan, an under-employed actor and over-employed dealer who sees himself as the hapless lead in the sitcom that is his life. Everyone else sees him as lazy, self-centered, and useless – if they even notice him at all.
As Zayan attempts to transition from being neglected to being notorious, we see how a man whose brushes with oppression, grief, and the sneaking suspicion that he’s become invisible have driven him to the unforgivable.
Invisible is a hilariously dark story tracking one man’s desperate struggle to be seen as the hero of his own narrative.
A Bush Theatre production
Written and performed by Nikhil Parmar
Directed by Georgia Green
27 June – 16 July
at Bush Theatre, 7 Uxbridge Road, London, W12 8LJ