Receiving various accolades, including being ranked no.19 in the Modern Library‘s list of 100 best English language novels of the 20th Century, Ralph Ellison‘s Invisible Man has been marked out as an influential text, exploring the incredibly topical subject of race and identity as an African American man navigates his way through the implications of this very complex topic. Invisible to society, society’s impact on him couldn’t be any louder- Ellison taps into a hyper awareness that we see resonating today.
Paul Anthony Morris taps into this resonant piece, forming an adaptation honouring Ellison’s experimental novel. It’s 1930s America and Invisible Man, our protagonist sits centre stage, examining the audience as they take their seats. A silence falls on the space, a silence brooding with questions. The dimmed lighting a convention that will accentuate Invisible Man’s ranking within society. George Eggay‘s Invisible Man is proud, he is charismatic and wants for the audience to hear his every word. Invisible on a daily basis, this is Invisible Man’s time to air his grievances.
As well as write, Morris directs a production willing to explore Ellison’s multi-faceted novel. A man isolated, living a solitary existence, his companions are his thoughts. A chorus of four illuminate his words and project a series of scenarios. Invisible Man’s unfortunate run in with an American male highlights the lack of tolerance within the time period, a rousing speech speaking of his achievements uplifts, driving Invisible Man to cry tears of joy. Important issues are raised here, the microcosm, a reflection of wider societal issues.
Morris intertwines physical theatre sequences with declarative speeches. Ellison’s experimental methodology a muse that could be further refined. Shifting from speech to movement is a visually exciting convention, however speeches have the tendency of being overwritten. The protagonist’s speeches therefore lose a gravitas as the production goes on. Morris’ Invisible Man is quietly ambitious, with refining, it could make for an incredibly powerful watch. 3/5
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
Invisible Man was shown at Rich Mix on Sunday 10th September as part of this year’s Certain Blacks Harlem Festival. For more information on the production, visit here…