Written by Sarah Wood, Directed by Adrian Jackson
The Cardboard Citizens
Everyman Theatre, Hope Street
4th - 8th April 2006

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

Visible is a bizarre and thought provoking production by the Cardboard Citizens, which contains elements drawn from various mind-numbing and tacky television game shows, together with snatches of absurd comedy resembling legendary British humour from television and theatre - including Monty Python, Fawlty Towers and Brian Rix Whitehall farces.

But behind the offbeat comic mask the play - written by Susan Woods, and imaginatively directed by Adrian Jackson - questions selfishness, avarice and materialism - in essence the shallow aspirations of many who inhabit the western world.

Performed by a cast including ex-homeless and other actors - presumably those who have not had to sleep rough on the streets - the play opens in a mundane fashion, with a middle class couple - husband Rob (Rory MacGregor) and wife Hattie (Karen Paullada) - squabbling about preparing their Sunday roast lunch in the kitchen of their mock Georgian house.

The scene also has the added ingredient of a search for their next door neighbour's cat Rasputin, who Rob has accidentally killed.

His denial of the death of the cat - powerfully symbolising the denial of those who hold the reins of political power throughout the world and who take no responsibility for the needlessly premature demise of millions of people in wars and man-made disasters - is a constant motif during the play.

But Visible then unfolds into a surreal style, with some of the actors dressing up as creatures like a giant penguin, teddy bear and rabbit, who interact with the audience, selecting several of them to take the stage and take part, reading some of the lines.

Among other issues, the play asks questions about the addiction to television in people's lives. The average time spent by British people in front of the rectangular box is 27 hours per week, with that figure going higher as people get older. The manipulation of people, their gullibility, and their apathy in failing to question the society they live in is also considered, along with a loss of self identity.

Using knives and forks, Rob, Hattie and friends finally feast upon a dead body, which had landed from above onto their kitchen table. This is accompanied by video shots of children starving interspersed with images of children gorging themselves on junk food.

The subject matters raised in Visible are difficult to digest for a lot of people. But that is where the problem lies. ‘It's not my problem, I have my own life to lead’.

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