Invisible: Or just empty?

Publicity photo for Invisible: Agents of Ungentlemanly Warfare

Melissa MacPherson (centre) and the cast in Brette Gerecke’s design
(Photo: DB Photographics)

Get a writer already. Jesus. The Invisible: Agents of Ungentlemanly Warfare is gobsmackingly well designed by Brette Gerecke and you could hardly ask for a more talented or committed cast. But Jonathan Christensen’s script for this musical is a disaster.

Virtually nothing happens in Act 1; it’s an hour-long set-up that could probably have been handled in 10 minutes. We’re in England in 1941. Hitler is winning World War II and Evelyn Ash, who works in England’s wartime spy agency, is trying to convince her spymasters to send female secret agents to France. She will succeed, of course — otherwise there wouldn’t be an Act 2 — which is why we don’t need to sit through separate backstory interviews with the six candidates or watch them training for weeks in Scotland. We know how all of this is going to turn out, so none of it qualifies as story.

When the narrative finally arrives in Act 2, it finds new ways to be clunky. The crisis has been so deliberately planted in Act 1 that all we can do is age while we wait for it show up. And the big reveal, the most important plot point, is not credible.

And let’s talk about the World War II fantasy thing. Female secret agents did serve during the Second World War, but notes on the production admit, “To our knowledge there was no ‘all-female’ cell”, which is what forms here. The Invisible isn’t about specific historic events or individuals, it’s a work of fiction. Fair enough, but it’s a dumb work of fiction, superficial and self-serving. It stylizes and glamourizes the real suffering of World War II. That’s particularly hard to take, given the horrors of Russia’s current war of aggression against Ukraine. Christensen pastes a feminist statement on top of this frippery, which makes it even more offensive. Heading into enemy territory, the women sing, “Most of all, we’ll fight for all the girls who never got a chance.” Really? That’s at the top of their agenda? Obviously, if your subjects are women and war — including women as warriors — there’s a huge amount of experience to explore, but doing so impactfully would involve thinking about it rather than giving us cartoon Nazis and a barely-there plot. [Read more…]

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