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Invisible Woman

Kate Cook in the Invisible Woman at Just the Tonic at the Mash House, Edinburgh Kate Cook in the Invisible Woman at Just the Tonic at the Mash House, Edinburgh

In this modest but thoroughly winning solo show Kate Cook tells a familiar tale with audacious originality, and with tongue if not firmly in cheek at least wandering thereabouts frequently.

Her heroine is an ordinary British housewife in the 1940s who surprises everyone including herself by becoming an expert secret agent and saboteur in occupied France, and Cook’s leap of imagination is to never portray the woman herself, letting us see her only through the observations and interactions of others.

So her beastly husband demeans her and her teenage daughter is embarrassed by her, but her dotty mother puts her on to a War Office job, and soon a blimpish major is recruiting her into behind-the-lines work. Other characters range from fellow spies and Gestapo officers, through a bus conductor and a driving instructor, to a flock of chickens.

Some of these are little more than caricatures, and the plot quickly leaves any pretence of documentary as it dallies among war movie cliches, but Cook prepared us for that with an opening warning that we might not find what followed wholly realistic. And yet through all the fun and indirection a portrait of the unseen woman does take shape and the story of her growth adds real warmth to the humour.

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Clever narrative device and sly humour create a warm and winning tale of wartime derring-do