Anna.

Mon 13th – Sat 18th August 2012

reviews

Ellen Smyth

at 09:47 on 14th Aug 2012

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Finally, something to get your teeth into – intense, raw and sinister, ‘Anna.’ condenses 24 turbulent hours into 50 possessed minutes. This work.Theatre production of ‘Anna.’ is chilling and complex: a fantastic debut from young writing talent Tom Ratcliffe. It explores the relationship between three housemates whose interaction becomes increasingly violent as the play proceeds. The work.Theatre company is made up of play write Tom Ratcliffe who plays Matthew, Jennifer Todd (as Anna) and Gabriella Moran who plays the no-nonsense, sharp Jo. And it’s almost impossible to pick the best of this talented bunch of actors. Anna is mysterious, ghostly and disillusioned with reality – her obvious struggle and fragile nature hold your attention even as the play skips back-and-forth between different times within the 24 hours. But it’s not just Anna who is damaged – the subtle flaws of each character are unveiled throughout the course of the play.

Discovery, disappearance and damage are core themes – ‘Anna’ explores to what degree single events can shape or mould us individually, and questions how well we can really know a person. Between the tangled web of lies, accusation and realisation the main thread of this story is never lost as the plot unfolds in a single living room of their shared flat. The use of unnerving news announcements between sections is a simple way to indicate a movement in time whilst effectively maintain the intensity and suspense.

There are several powerful moments. In particular, when Anna reveals the truth about her abusive father and how disconnected from the real world she is. Interestingly the highlight is also the most grotesque - when Jo slowly pulls the phone cord out of her mouth and wraps it around her neck it’s sickening and shocking yet somehow you can’t look away. I loved it – I can’t think of enough superlatives and I hope it’s not the last we see of work.Theatre.

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Helena Blackstone

at 09:59 on 14th Aug 2012

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The plot of 'Anna.' is comprised of two moments in time, which the action alternates between. This is described in the blurb as ‘gradually revealing the truth behind the girl’s disappearance’. Sadly this is not actually true. The time skips only serve to make it obvious what will happen from the start, and so the rest of the production becomes a painful waiting game. There were some other under-developed elements of the script: the exposition unloaded on the audience at various points is awkward; when relationships between characters are explained, rather than shown through action, this sticks out like a sore thumb and cancels out any intended naturalism. Unfortunately this production opened with its first information dump of just this kind, with Jo telling Anna that both of them fancy Matthew. Later on there is a brief indication of some sort of turmoil over their being posh, conservative ex-private school kids, while pretending to be rough and lower class in the world outside their flat. I found added detail such as this to be unnaturalistic; outside of its two pointed mentions it was not shown at any moment by their characterisation.

Matthew (Tom Ratcliffe) was uncomfortably nervous of the sexual relationships, and similarly in the friendship between the two girls, Jo (Gabriella Moran) looked just as uncomfortable about leaning on Anna (Jennifer Todd) in a “relaxed” pose as she did on her lover Matthew’s. I found myself cringing too at Ratcliffe’s advances because he did not manage to escape his own awkward frame. The often stiff, unnatural dialogue does not help.

Having said this, I did enjoy the relationship between Matthew and Anna; the underlying dynamics of this have been better thought out and Anna’s more subtle performance led her to be the star of the show, fortunately so as she has a long monologue to deliver.

The plot is melodramatic and does not make realistic sense. I won’t include a spoiler but I did not find Anna’s responses to her stated situation to be realistic, but rather sensationalising. Her personality is not shown to transform in any visible way, as would be required for her central action in the play. To me this production was gritty but only for the sake of it, without being truly able to handle the subject matter.

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