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Invisible Animal | Omnibus Theatre

Invisible Animal is an hour long play inspired by the life experiences of autistic writer Tom Manning, and how they grew up hiding their true self. We follow Tom as they face up to internalised ableism, past trauma, and the medical model of disability. He is supported through these challenges by his alter egos, who take shape as him but in different forms - one as a YouTube host, and the other his Invisible Animal (who we later learn is his unmasked self).

As this show has been created by a team of mostly neurodivergent artists, there were multiple embedded accommodations including Jessica Bickle-Barlow's captions. Also considered were sensory friendly elements, a relaxed environment and a breakout space for audience members. They had trigger and content warnings available online, at the box office, and in the performance space itself. Of course, these provisions are always important but especially when telling stories of people with these requirements, and the Invisible Animal (Sarah Verghese Productions) team is definitely setting a good example. The only feedback I'd give regarding the disability representation, is that it was about a white masculine presenting person whose primary interest is films and movie culture. While this is true for a lot of autistic people, it felt unnecessarily stereotypical, especially combined with Aisling Gallagher and Michelle Femi Two's decision of what felt like a trope - having them start on stage wearing headphones and rocking on their chair, before struggling to leave the house.

They also used person-first language throughout and, despite the intention clearly being to demonstrate this as incorrect terminology, it was never actually addressed. This is one of the things that made me feel slightly awkward as a fellow neurodivergent person because it was as if neurotypical people were expected to feel uncomfortable, and that's not what I think should be encouraged. The fact that we didn't know what we were working towards also contributed to this, as we knew what Tom wanted, but not really where we as an audience stood on this journey. It felt like a reading from a biography, rather than a discussion about a problem which was yet to be solved - and that's what I would have liked to watch unfold. It was, however, clear that this script was important to Tom as his performance was well connected with both the text and the audience. He did seem slightly conscious of the captions at times, and it seemed he was uneasy about the fact we would know if he were to go off book.

Technically, most departments ran smoothly. The lighting design by Rachel Sampley was subtle enough not to detract from the fast paced script or frequent switches between recordings on stage, and added some nice stimulation in the few moments of awkward silence when these changes did not happen as rapidly as they could. The interactions had been well rehearsed and David Wm Palmer was very hot on the ball with these cues. Emma Wee has designed a nostalgic set that is recognisable to most anyone who grew up in Britain, and this mirrors the locations Tom speaks about during his monologues, meaning we instantly feel more connected with the piece. We can envision the environment clearly and know what each aspect connotes without this having to be explained, allowing more time and energy to be given to unpacking Tom's medical barriers.

Marketing (by Mobius Industries) was done well, as it was greatly accessible and relatable so definitely 'a show for people who exist as different versions at different times in different places.' If you are familiar with this sensation, or have never heard of it and are keen to learn more, I'd definitely advise reflecting on it both independently and with the help of this show which is running until 4th November. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review


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