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Monday, February 10, 2020

The Invisible at Catalyst Theatre - Revealing the Exceptional!

This past Friday, I was delighted to take in the latest theatrical creation from Catalyst Theatre - The Invisible: Agents of Ungentlemanly Warfare. It tells the story of seven exceptional female operatives during World War II who risk their lives to help bring down the Nazis. It's engaging and unpredictable and full of compelling music, performed with brilliance by a cast of seven and a three piece band. It easily takes a place as one of my favourite Catalyst productions ever!

Set in 1940, in France, it's inspired by the stories of real-life Special Operations Executives (SOEs) who were tasked with sabotage and subversion behind enemy lines. The SOE was the only branch where women were allowed to participate in combat roles by the Allies. The musical imagines an all-female cell, who participate in missions to bring down the enemy. They are led by Evelyn Ash (Melissa MacPherson) who recounts their history and actions in the war. MacPherson is steely and determined, a force on the stage, leading us through the ups and downs of their recruitment, training and ultimate deployment. The 6 agents she recruits are a mixed bunch, with varied citizenship, skills, and motivations for their participation. As a group, they contain the perfect blend of skills and talents to pull off multiple missions with success. Of course, the story is told through action and song, and not only are they exceptional agents, but they are also tremendous triple threat performers. Make that quadruple threat - as they all, at various times, speak in languages other than English, from French, to Polish, to Romanian, to Czech and German.

It's hard to single anyone out, as they are a well-balanced machine. I was drawn into the story, leaning in to learn what happened next.  I do have to draw attention to Tara Jackson, whose vocals are particularly amazing, especially in her jazz club number, but all seven actors are gifted singers and each is given their moment to shine. There's a real diversity in the music, and director and writer Jonathan Christenson has used the strengths of all his actors to great effect in order to tell his story. This is supported by creative choreography by Laura Krewski which moves the piece from moment to moment and place to place with precision and attack. Bretta Gerecke's design evokes the world with a sepia paper backdrop and sharp columns of light which feel almost solid. It's striking and compelling and the mood of every moment is carefully crafted.

It was the best, of course, to see this female-centric story set in a world where we are not used to seeing women - at least not in popular culture. And to see it told by such gifted artists playing characters who are not stereotypes or victims, but instead are women of agency and intelligence, was wonderful. I highly recommend this show - catch it before it's gone!

The Invisible: Agents of Ungentlemanly Warfare presented by Catalyst Theatre, runs to February 23rd in the MacLab Theatre (Citadel). Tickets are available here.

Photo Credit: DBPhotographics

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