Theatre review: INvocation at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre


Invocation - Credit: Archant

With its similarly eye-catching, loaded typography, INvocation opens the GOlive Festival at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre.

INvocation spells out the play’s dual preoccupations: the search for spirituality and the attainment of a career that nourishes the soul. With some quirky riffs and an engaging performance from Australian Peta Lily, this painfully honest monologue is endearing but sketchy.

Drawing from personal experience, Lily, now in her 50s, narrates how she faced a crisis in 2002 when she chose for economic reasons to stop performing in theatre and turned her back on her “playground”. Meditation offered an alternative high but she still couldn’t escape the clichés of a midlife crisis and divorce. Under pressure to work, she took on a conventional, corporate job in an environment where she struggled to feel at ease. As Lily tells it, she is ever the outsider, restless and consumed by her passion for theatre despite being haunted by memories of the stresses involved. At its best, her surreal take on life’s challenges is winning. She uses minimal props (and quite a lot of salt) to illustrate and layer her storytelling. She’s certainly a spry, attractive figure as she whizzes around the stage and Lily plays the clown well: mimicking masculine stereotypes and parodying multiple female roles.

But when I read in the programme notes that Lily has been “working from her life, dreams and obsessions since 1983”, it sounded like the blurb for a self-help book and my heart sank. So much is invested in this show about dreams and failure. And quite a lot is asked of the audience – massaging fellow audience members and making public confessions about personal heroes. Creative failure and the regrets of the middle-aged artiste is undoubtedly rich territory but I certainly need the bitterness better disguised. References to fantasy knights and dragons are all very well but as a mini epic about personal discovery, this tale tells us nothing new.

Until June 7.

Rating: Two stars