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Indestructible | Omnibus Theatre

Indestructible is a poignant piece of theatre that highlights the often destructive waves that women can be caught in due to their association with a problematic man. Written and Directed by Mary Swan, it follows artist Catherine Shaw (Mary Rose) as she prepares for her first exhibition in over a decade, her relationships to men and the narrative within which her artwork resides is a fascinating premise. Swan's work sparks a number of important and urgent conversations through her strong writing and intelligent observations, and gives us a glimpse into the underlying political framework and structure of the everyday.

However the core story is unfortunately let down by the flow of the play. There are a number of scenes inserted that seem to be grasping at the chance to be political. These often come across awkwardly and downplay the actual issue at hand. An example of this is an abrupt "not when you're black" in response to a conversation about elitism. Whilst unfortunately true, it doesn't work in context of the play, especially as it's never addressed beyond a brief pause. The story is loosely connected chronologically by the upcoming exhibition, but there are large time jumps that are never acknowledged and eventually led me to stop trying to keep track and just focus on the actual scenes themselves. Each scene introduces a new perspective and new theme, however they are often contained and this doesn't continue forwards. 

The show takes a dramatic turn in the last few scenes, when Catherine's friend and benefactor Robin (Paul Huntley-Thomas) is accused of sexually assaulting younger female artist Julia Rodriguez (Olivia Egbunike). Catherine unwillingly becomes involved and the show tackles what it initially sets out to do. There is a rather unexpected yet impressively choreographed movement moment (Cassie Friend) wherein we see Catherine's internal rage and conflicting emotions. 

Olivia Egbunike as Julia Rodriguez manages to bring the show's emotional thread into a powerful and long lasting moment. Despite only appearing as a video recording, the slow contextualisation of her video provides a haunting subtext to the show. 

A particularly striking moment is a brilliant use of audience involvement by transforming the piece into a game show. With paddles under the seats, audience members are encouraged to vote whether they agree or disagree with a number of controversial opinions before turning this on Catherine's own actions within the context of the show. With Rose visibly becoming more upset, and the power residing with the audience, it's a stirring moment. 

The set design (Sam Pine) is stunning, with clear personality in a completely white small artist studio. Using video projection (Christopher Harrison) and lighting (Joe Hornsby), Swan is able to bring pieces of art to life, and this is used well throughout. A particularly impressive moment is the forced apologetic statement issued by Robin through a distorted voice over (Liam Hipple) and fragmented and robotic art pieces. 

The concept is interesting and I wish it had been given the foreground. As it stands, the show tries to be both satirical and serious in revealing the darker side of the arts, yet sadly accomplishes neither. The story also focuses primarily on Catherine's journey, yet she's quite an unlikeable and unsympathetic character. Whilst I appreciate that the character is middle aged, some of her opinions seem dated and out of place, almost attacking the younger generations. When Julia Rodriguez comes forward, Catherine shows almost no sympathy, concerned more with the future of her exhibition. 

Indestructible has so so much potential to be a truly powerful piece yet it currently staggers under the weight of too many topics and not enough time. The emotional story lacks focus but still manages to pack a punch at the end. Indestructible manages to be an educational and entertaining experience and a show that will leave you slowly processing long after.

Indestructible runs at Omnibus Theatre until 3rd February 2024. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by The Other Richard


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