Invisible at Bush Theatre
Returning to Bush Theatre after an initial run in 2022, ahead of its Off Broadway debut, is Nikhil Parmar’s one-man play, Invisible. The one-hour show centres on jobbing actor Zayan, who would love for nothing more than to play James Bond, only his brown skin somewhat hinders his chances. Best known for being dressed as a bird for a fried chicken advert, Zayan laments that South Asian actors are simply not visible in the film and television industry. Working catering jobs and even dabbling in drug dealing between auditions, Zayan feels invisible not only as a performer, but in his day-to-day life too. When will he finally be seen?
From the very start we are aware that what is about to unfold is somewhat meta: Parmar is playing a version of himself, which allows many of the heavy and observant themes to pack a punch, despite mostly being concealed by the comedy that infuses the production. The actor is naturally skilled in this aspect, although not all the jokes quite land; on occasion, he moves on too quickly, failing to allow the necessary time for the audience to digest what has been said. This mutes the impact of some of the funnier scenes, and, at times, delayed laughter ensues, however our performer is already onto the next scene. Pacing is a slight issue here, however Parmar always reels us back thanks to his engaging and inviting demeanour, quickly establishing audience rapport. Utilising the small studio space, stepping into the audience and even passing an imaginary baby to a spectator adds to the intimacy. This is also aided by the actor’s eye contact with us. He’s endearing and interesting to watch with effective light and sound design by Laura Howard and Bella Kear punctuating key moments.
As Parmar digresses to an array of anecdotes about his failed relationship, the child he shares with his ex, his relationship with his drug-dealing cousins and his terminally ill sister, it becomes clear that there is a great deal condensed into a short play. Too much, in fact, and, because the many strands are only tied together ever so loosely, we find ourselves struggling with what to grasp on to and invest in. Sure, we grow to care about our protagonist, despite his flaws and faults, but the contrast between the earnest and the playful renders the overall tone problematic. Further script development and revisions could very well lead to something surer of itself and more accomplished – the blueprint for an innovative and more powerful piece of theatre is most certainly there.
Invisible, for all its commendable intentions and its assured, captivating central performance, will most likely not remain firmly entrenched in the mind at this stage in its life. Nikhil Parmar, however, most definitely will.
Photo: Henri T
Invisible is at Bush Theatre from 23rd May until 9th June 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.