• Lori Hopkins

Invisible Me by House Of Stray Cats Review

Invisible Me is the latest production by House of Stray Cats. Based in London, their trademark brand of storytelling fuses physical theatre and puppetry and is well showcased in this energetic new performance. The story takes us on the journey of protagonist Bo. Played by Paul Brayward, Bo is a young child with a sense of adventure. Brayward’s warm and natural interpretation allows the audience to instantly adore the character, proven by their cries of “Hello Bo!” each time he appears on stage. Bo has a fear of the shower monster that appears at night. In order to help overcome his powerful and nightmarish fantasies, the mischievous, Bad Bingo arrives and befriends him.

Bad Bingo is portrayed by an extremely well-crafted, three-person operated puppet. Maia Kirkman-Richards (who voices Bad Bingo and also plays Bo’s older sister) has designed this versatile humanoid puppet that leaps, creeps, pounces and struts his way around Bo’s house. Bad Bingo’s ability to morph through walls to travel between the rooms of the house, despite the fact that we can clearly see there are no walls is highly effective. Watching the human characters lag behind as they have take the long route and enter through doors enhances Bad Bingo’s otherness. It is really exciting to see an almost life-size puppet in this scale of production. Bad Bingo’s magnitude works to the company’s advantage as we are able to fully immerse ourselves into the developing friendship of he and Bo. Even when surrounded by his hooded and dark bespectacled operators, we don’t lose sight of the puppet’s liveliness and tangibility.

As well as some convincing and effective puppetry, the cast of four successfully portray Bo's young family through several highly physical and visual sequences. Whilst the choreography gives a great sense of a fun and busy family, the chaos of some sections meant that dialogue occasionally became inaudible and there were some issues with split-focus.

A highlight of Invisible Me is the element of surprise and magic throughout the show. The opening sets an eerie and mysterious atmosphere, pitched at just the right level for the intended 5-11 age range. There were gasps and shrieks as the shower monster’s tentacles emerged for the first time. Tricks and devices built into the set and props create and maintain a feeling of anticipation and joy for the duration, building to a jubilant climax. The final scene is thrilling – no spoilers, but expect the unexpected and the odd Brussels sprout.

Underneath all the spectacle is a heartwarming exploration of sibling and parent-child relationships and an insight into a our personal connection to fears and the battles to overcome them. Invisible Me is sure to delight and surprise leaving you with a spring in your step.

Photo: Rob Piwko