Arts & CultureCampus & City

Theatre Review: Catalyst Theatre’s “The Invisible – Agents of Ungentlemanly Warfare”

This musical shines a light on female operative that for too long have gone unrecognized

Where: The Citadel Theatre
When: February 4 — 23
Director: Jonathan Christenson
Choreographer: Laura Krewski
Cast: Kristi Hansen, Tara Jackson, Melissa MacPherson, Marie Mahabal, Melanie Piatocha, Amanda Trapp & Justine Westby
Runtime: 2 hours plus a 15 min. intermission
Purchase tickets here.

Going into The Invisible – Agents of Ungentlemanly Warfare, I was anticipating that it would just be another version of Six. Fortunately, this show surpassed my expectations by proving itself to be uniquely funny, moving and suspenseful. While Six was very much a celebration of the individuality of women who have long been robbed of such celebration, The Invisible is a deliciously dramatic story inspired by women whose heroic acts have, until now, gone unsung.

Set in Europe during the Second World War, The Invisible follows the training and missions of a fictional all-female cell of Britain’s Special Operations Executives, nicknamed “the Department of Ungentlemanly Warfare.” This moniker comes from the agents’ practice of sabotage and subversion tactics, such as blowing up trains and fostering guerrilla warfare in occupied countries. When the agents are sent to France to execute a series of dangerous and important missions, they must struggle with inner and interpersonal conflicts, as well as a brutal Nazi general who is hot on their trail.

Full of twists and turns, The Invisible is at times incredibly taut and incredibly funny. The ensemble cast plays off of each other well, with every agent having their specific personality and backstory being fleshed out. Each character has a role to play, and they do so with flair. For example, Betty Anderson (Amanda Trapp) is a perky Cree Canadian ex-nurse who grew up in a residential school and becomes the cell’s explosives expert. 

The musical has a couple of character development moments that are highly satisfying and well-deserved — and this makes the story of intrigue and suspense all the more riveting. Some critical moments also carry incredible emotional weight, and they cause the viewers themselves to question how they would feel and act in the scenarios being posed. 

The Invisible is not afraid to tread some morally grey territories, and to my mind this makes it all the more accomplished. I came out of it feeling like I’d been challenged in my preconceptions of the Second World War, and the image I had of it now is more complex and detailed. This is a period of world history that is rife in moral quandaries, where people had to make hard choices in the heat of the moment. The musical does not condemn or condone such situations, but rather it recognizes the humanity of those who have to face them, and it celebrates their courage and intrepidness. The fact that The Invisible chooses to focus specifically on the war efforts by women, who have long been cast in the shadow in favour of male war heroes, is all the more refreshing and inspiring.

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