Before the man disappears

Theatre Kingston’s latest production tells the tale of the bilingual Invisible Man who is torn between two cultures

Guillaume Trembly and Jimmy Blais (from left) travelled from Montréal to play both halves of the titular L’homme invisible/Invisble Man in Theatre Kingston’s current bilingual production.
Image supplied by: Supplied by Tim Fort
Guillaume Trembly and Jimmy Blais (from left) travelled from Montréal to play both halves of the titular L’homme invisible/Invisble Man in Theatre Kingston’s current bilingual production.

The dark, intimate room of the Baby Grand Theatre on Princess St. is the perfect setting for the play, L’homme invisible/The Invisible Man, put on by Theatre Kingston.

Written by Canadian playwright, Patrice Desbiens, directed by Harry Standjofski and reminiscent of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, it’s the story of a man who is bilingual from birth. This melancholy tale is told in both French and English and is packed full of dark humour.

Montréal actors, Jimmy Blais and Guillaume Trembly, arriving just a few days ago, play the two opposing sides of the character, the Invisible Man. It certainly must have been difficult to put on a play in Kingston with the actors being from Quebec.

The play has a simple set in a dimly lit room. What more do you need when there is a cast of only two people?

In the center of the floor is a large white cross, drawn in chalk. The actors move around this cross throughout the performance. They often stand on opposite ends of it so that it serves as a divider for the Invisible Man’s two opposing cultural sides. Being a Timmins, Ontario native, he is torn between his French and his English heritage.

The cross also draws attention to the character’s life and the trials he faces as he leaves home and becomes a man. The chalk is untouched and perfect at the beginning of the play, but as the Invisible Man leaves home, battles alcoholism and faces hardship in his love and work life, the cross becomes more and more smudged until its edges fade away and blend with the dark floor.

It’s interesting to note that the play is spoken in third person. Not once does either actor portraying the Invisible Man refer to themselves as “I.” This gives the overall effect of a story that is being told to the audience. Not only do you watch what is going on, you hear it narrated to you as well.

The play begins with a musical duet with an alto and a tenor saxophone. It’s a beautiful way to open up the show and set the tone for the actors. The song is haunting and brings to mind a frantic, chaotic and troublesome dream.

The musicians play sporadically throughout the show, drawing attention to particular scenes and enhancing the miserable mood and conditions of the Invisible Man.

While I understand the use of both the French and English languages to focus on the character’s conflict between the two halves of his cultural identity, I often found myself lost in translation or losing interest during the French monologues.

With my limited knowledge of French, I was able to determine that what was spoken by one actor in English, was repeated by the other in French. However, I was not always sure that this was the case and sometimes found myself confused as to what was going on.

Although the play’s bilingualism caused a bit of a problem, the use of both languages worked well to create a clear divide between the Invisible Man’s two cultural identities.

No matter what language was spoken, the emotion was clear and I often found myself connecting more with the actor speaking in French than the one speaking in English.

The Invisible Man is a thoroughly enjoyable play, there was no time to get bored with the story and it ended at the appropriate moment.

Overall, it is an interesting play to see and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in dark comedy and tales of melancholy.

The Invisible Man plays at the Baby Grand Theatre until Feb. 25. See < a href=”“> for ticket details.

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