The Cloak of Visibility is written by Louise Breckon-Richards, and directed by Charissa Martinkauppi.
Produced for The Space by Antandre Productions, it is a prime example of the production company’s ethos of ‘creating female-driven work which entertains and evokes discussion and debate.’
Amy (Sally Vanderpump) is a forty-something wife and mother. She’s health and climate conscious, running regularly and allowing her children “one fizzy drink on holiday, otherwise it is water”.
She works in event management just off Oxford Circus, travelling by tube each day in her high heels, applying her signature lipstick (“secret sunset”) en route.
When we first meet her, she seems a typical suburban woman juggling her career and family. She has a husband … but she also likes to flirt.
One day she is late for work after stopping to admire a purple, backless dress in a shop window (“costs about a month’s wages … a dress you would have forever”), her life starts to change radically.
I watched this show on its livestream, although it was performed at the same time in situ at the venue in front of an audience. The filming was from multiple cameras, one with a degree of distortion which added to the increasing unease as Amy’s story progresses.
She proves to be a narrator who isn’t entirely honest with us, or with her husband (if, indeed, he is really there – we can’t be sure).
Although The Cloak of Visibility is a monologue, other people are described in detail. Amy’s boss at work (“a boy with a beard”). The mothers who make her welcome to their Friday coffee meet-ups.
The young man who smiles at her on the train every morning. The shop assistant where she tries on her dream dress. Tom, her husband.
The twin children are a constant presence in the text but we never meet them or find out much about them. It becomes clear that something is not right with the family image we were presented early in the show, but it takes a while to realise what.
Amy is, after all, so upbeat and confident (“the young ones at work call me ‘cool mum’), demonstrating her twerking and bubbling along about being a people person.
When she is told to ‘make yourself invisible”, things change: her purpose becomes that of a walking warrior, wearing a bright cloak of disparate materials sewn together, its bright colours bringing her attention.
Recalling the fantasies of her childhood (Mary Poppins, The Phoenix and the Magic Carpet) she longs not just to be visible, but to soar and fly.
Amy sometimes reverts to the senses of a child: she wishes to be safe and warm as well as “stylishly busy”. A woman who can sometimes remove the constraints of being a responsible adult.
Once we know where the children she vaguely remembers are, she gains a different type of feeling from us. Distrust, perhaps, but sympathy, too.
“People are looking at me! It’s my cloak of visibility
A warrior, with a purpose.
All the time I was wearing it the wrong way.
Just turn it round and you are …seen.”
This is a very powerful piece of drama about a difficult subject. It treats Amy’s mental instability and personal trauma with sensitivity and strength, with a very convincing performance from Vanderpump.
It calls on our inner power to deal with adversity but also acknowledges the need to open up and talk rather than bowing under the pressure of “having it all”.
The Cloak of Visibility runs at The Space until 6 June. For tickets for the live performance, go here. For the livestream, go here.
Image credit: Eleanora C Collini
LouReviews received complimentary access to review The Cloak of Invisibility.