by Dustin Jussila
There are performances that, upon first viewing, give you the impression that to get the full effect you must see it again. Some plays that are so full character that if your attention leaves for just a few moments, you miss important detail and milieu. Catalyst Theatre’s The Invisible: Agents of Ungentlemanly Warfare is a fast paced, high stakes musical that will leave audiences longing for more. The women in this play feel rich in backstory, their personalities are so real that you will feel a sense of comradery with them as much as they do with each other.
Inspired by real people and actual historical events, The Invisible is a love letter to spy fiction; unflinching and unapologetically showcasing a team of female guerrilla saboteurs in Nazi occupied France. There is a very Quentin Tarantino-esque feeling to the film, similar to Inglorious Basterds. Like Tarantino, writer and director Jonathan Christenson spends important time introducing each of the characters intimate details, building rapport that carries through the play and bringing emotional weight to their struggles. The audience is treated to an incredibly emotional performance as they see these women, each unique and strong in their own way, dropped behind enemy lines on suicide missions. You will share their victories and their disasters.
This rag-tag group of secret agents are escorted by a musical team of their own, with a keyboard, percussion, and a violin that only adds to the dramatic nature of the performance. When part of a musical number, the music is weaved together with soundtrack-worthy compositions that flow together with flair. When going along with expositions, this performance’s music adds the perfect level of commotion that allows you to feel the significance of every monologue. The distinct music and sounds for a Nazi antagonist named the “The Angel of War” is well-thought-out, adding a musical tone to the struggle.
These women answer dangerous adversity with positive diversity. There is a French African cabaret dancer, a woman with one leg, a Cree woman from the western Canada, and even an Indian princess. And each of them uses their unique backgrounds to further their agenda: sabotage and subversion behind enemy lines. Based on the true story of the Special Operations Executives (SOE), the English secret agency was known as the “Department of Ungentlemanly Warfare,” due to its atypical warfare strategies. Although there was no all-female fighting force, Christenson weaves a fictional story from non-fictional elements, presenting characters and situations that might as well have been in a history book.
Catalyst Theatre’s The Invisible: Agents of Ungentlemanly Warfare is a female empowering musical that
one might think was real if they weren’t too careful. Although this musical in in Edmonton for only 2
weeks, you may consider repeat viewings in order to take in every detail, and become fast friends with this
clandestine troupe setting WWII era France ablaze.
Banner and In-Text Photography courtesy of Invisible Company