Tuesday 28th June 2022 at Bush Theatre.
Reviewer: Maygan Forbes
Written and performed by Nikhil Parmar, Invisible is a one man show that delves into the psyche of a man overwhelmed with the feelings that his race and social positioning in the world reduce his desirability in the world of acting.
Zayan wants the world to see what it’s like to be the typecasted anti hero in each category of his life: work, relationships, socially, as a father. His invisibility extends past the stereotypical trope of brown men and the box they are placed in as safe to play. Zayan draws upon the conversations surrounding James Bond and the gap in the role to play Bond. Many of these conversations have placed race in the forefront of these discussions, as the question has been asked: “why can’t a person of colour play James Bond?” Zayan wants the people in his world to see him as the hero of his own narrative, but he is neither seen as a hero or a villain. He is just merely existing, flying under the radar amidst his peers who appear to be going from strength to strength.
For a person who shares the feeling of invisibility, they are awfully visible. In the Bush Theatre space, Zayan was the hero of the hour. Hilarious with impeccable comedic timing, the stage was his personal stand up comedy show. It was easy to get lulled into the false sense of a happy go lucky economy on stage. Whilst Invisible may present as a tale of an down on his luck actor with a messy life, the play holds a flame to a feeling much deeper and incandescent, and as the play continues the audience are exposed to that frightening feeling that plagues his existence.
Parmar is a superb actor. A writer with a wealth of acting experience, he plays the role of the pseudo class clown exquisitely. What makes his work so convincing is he’s tapped into a very universal feeling for people of colour, of drowning under the weight of societal bias and racism, and the inevitability of “if you can’t beat them, join them”. Should Zayan play the role society expects of him and become the typecast of what is expected of him? How can you fight a battle when you armed with such little resources? Zayan is at the forefront of the heaviness that follows when you denounce yourself in order to play into societies bias.
Towards the end of the play Zayan reveals that his real name is actually Nikhil however as it didn’t seem “ethnic” enough so changed his name to purposely be considered for roles that play into that stereotype. Many times we hear of actors changing their names to be “visible” in spaces that determine whether or not they are worthy of casting. Zayan is no different to this age old tale, but it’s a sentimental moment when he finally claims his real name back again.
The play is wonderfully directed by Georgia Green, and is further brought to life with incredible use of the lighting and sound elements (headed by Laura Howard and Bella Kear). The stage feels electric and Parmar makes sure to conclude the audience with a reminder that his world is not dependent on whether or not we see him anymore. The anger he feels is gripping and lands heavy on the stage like a paperweight, it’s present throughout even through the more light hearted comedic moments. Parmar is an acting force to be reckoned with and lights up the stage with a multitude of feelings.
I will say, at many points in the beginning the play felt disjointed. As if there was a thread missing to link everything together seamlessly. Ultimately, it does all come together in the end but I did find myself wondering at the start where this invisible thread was (pun intended). However it’s worth bearing in mind that Invisible is a new commission from the Bush Theatre, the play is in it’s infancy and there is a lot of room in it to continuously grow and flourish. Parmar is a wonderful entertainer and I am excited to see what he has lined up in the future!
Invisible plays at the Bush Theatre until July 16th 2022 – you can find tickets here.