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The Invisible Man is a must see at Eastbourne Devonshire Park Theatre

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Pop quiz: take a stellar cast, classic story from the ‘father of science fiction’ and mesmerising illusions created by the former president of the Magic Circle and what do you get? A must-see production of The Invisible Man that’s as entertaining as it is mystifying where the entire audience is left wondering: ‘how did they do that?’

But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the latest offering from The Eastbourne Theatres Production team is a veritable visual feast – even when there’s literally nothing to see. This is a company that delivers up hit after hit each summer, after all, and The Invisible Man is an incredible feat of acting sprinkled with lashings of old-fashioned magic.

The story is one of HG Wells’ most iconic after The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine. Written in 1897, it is the simple tale of a scientist, Griffin, whose experiments render him irreversibly invisible. Bitter and desperate to be seen again, Griffin moves to the West Sussex village of Iping where he plots a nationwide terror campaign.

So far so predictable. But from curtain up this is a Victorian classic underpinned with a slick script, even slicker stage production and illusions that are literally magical.

Watch in delight as The Invisible Man sits down and you see the dent in the chair cushion. He rifles through a bureau and papers go flying, and he signs a document, and a quill pen glides over the paper.

Even when Griffin goes bad – no spoilers here! – you’ll see the action unfold right in front of you and be enchanted by the illusions. Magician Scott Penrose, who has an impressive history of creating illusion effects for numerous West End shows, Cirque du Soleil and Hollywood films, worked tirelessly with the cast – and it shows.

This is high-level magic where so many things could go wrong especially performed live night after night. But it all went seamlessly, timed to perfection, to convince the packed theatre that seeing really is believing – even if your eyes are deceiving you.  

It's not all technical trickery though. Theatres director Chris Jordan has another weapon to unleash on the stage: humour and it is personified by the brilliant tramp, Thomas Marvel, played by the legendary Ben Roddy.

An actor with funny bones, Roddy breaks through the fourth wall to connect with the audience directly, something he did to great effect in last year’s production, Jules Verne’s Around The World In 80 Days.  

He's the glue that holds this fast-moving production together, along with brassy landlady Mrs Hall, played brilliantly by Suzie Chard, Squire Burdock – Brookside star Steven Pinder – and Rev Bunting/MC the rrrrrrrrrr-ollicking James Peake.

Stern Scottish schoolmistress (Gillian Ford) is a pipe-smoking Suffragette-style outsider keen to crack the mystery surrounding Griffin, played to perfection by Philip Stewart, which leads to scenes that will leave you jumping in your seat, and marvelling at just how good live theatre can be.

See it. Be Amazed. Then go watch it again to see if you can work out how the creative team make the magic happen. But be under no illusion: this is a performance that will baffle you, bedazzle you and leave you seeing things differently. And isn’t that what all good shows should do?

The Invisible Man is at Devonshire Park Theatre until Saturday 26 August, 2023. Tickets: Tue – Sat 7.45pm £23.00 - £29.50, Wed & Sat 2.30pm £23.00 - £27.50


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