The Baron’s Court Theatre is host to a satirical play that made me desperate to read the book that inspired it. Vladimir Nabokov’s literary work is successfully projected onto the stage by Act Provocateur International. Invitation to a Beheading is a dystopian piece that manages to take the audience out of the society that they know and displace them into a fictional, slightly distorted, world. This play explores the feeling of isolation, loneliness, helplessness and a loss of control in a world that does not seem to make sense. Consisting of 2 Acts and set in a prison, The Baron’s Court Theatre provides the perfect setting for such a play. What used to be the pub’s cellar is ideal for reflecting the dark, cold, isolation of the prison cell.
In this fictional society, the likeable Cincinnatus has been put in prison for a crime that is never described or made known to the audience. Cincinnatus does not seem to even know himself why he is there. The entire duration of the play sees Cincinnatus prepare for his upcoming beheading whilst enduring games of mental cruelty initiated by both the workers of the prison and his own family. The audience is never sure what is real or what should be believed.
Despite the sinister undertones, this is a very quirky piece of theatre with a well chosen cast full of distinct and memorable characters. Garry Voss, playing Cincinnatus, was perfect for his lead role. His performance was incredibly natural and believable and despite being on stage for the entire duration of the production, his energy never faltered. The audience were physically touched by his expressions of helplessness and frustration; his innocence was refreshing and allowed the audience to fully empathise with his character; and he performed convincingly both through his intonations and also through his authentic body language. Voss exuded a charming star quality that I was not expecting to find in such a small and under-appreciated venue.
Invitation to a Beheading is a lively, colourful, socio-political play full of great characters and a story designed to make the audience think. If you like George Orwell, Franz Kafka or generally just a good piece of literary theatre then you must book tickets to see this before the final show on 24th April 2016: http://www.offwestend.com/index.php/theatres/book/42?play=14125