Anon(ymous)

Wed 1st – Sat 11th August 2012

reviews

salome wagaine

at 19:24 on 3rd Aug 2012

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'Anon(ymous)' does something that has been done numerous times before, in putting a modern twist on a piece of classical literature (in this case, The Odyssey), which of course is not inherently a bad thing. However, this production would have benefited by abandoning its connections to the old and simply telling what is a good and worthy subject for theatrical interpretation in its own right.

The show started off well: some lovely soothing vocal work gave a wistful and lyrical feel that was pitched just right and nicely echoed at the end. As the play progresses, we see that the events in the source material have been transplanted fairly loosely to deal with some of the issues the western world has to tackle most seriously: the impact of globalisation and cheap labour, along with richer nations' treatment of refugees and immigrants from less economically developed countries. As such, some clever points were made, or at least alluded to, with regards to cultural appropriation and the difficulties encountered with trans-national and trans-cultural adoption.

However, I am not sure quite how successful the leap from epic hero to nameless Kafka-esque everyman was. Partly this is a fault of the text: the writing was fairly clunky and rested on some very tired stereotypes such as the hideously vapid valley girl, which perhaps is why at times the actors relied on slightly overwrought delivery of their lines. Nevertheless, Jesse Perez deserves credit for his turn as Anon and most of the other actors were given a chance to demonstrate dramatic charisma (Michael Thomas-Visgar, for example).

In terms of direction, some of the fight choreography could have been tighter, although the repeated use of sheets as shrouds, sweatshop factory goods and sea was clever and pleasingly minimalistic. Some of the ensemble scenes telling the tales of the nameless refugees were a bit too slowly paced and predictable.

Overall then, a somewhat inventive but unfortunately unremarkable and slightly confused and didactic production, due in large part to the lack of bravery to just put on a play about the poor treatment of people now, without feeling an urge to hark back to the familiar.

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Joel Singer

at 04:40 on 4th Aug 2012

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This modern adaptation of the Odyssey manages not to fall into the potential “O Brother, Where Art Thou” mould and instead presents an exciting story. However, the performance does seem a little slap-dash, with segments not seamlessly flowing together and, on occasion, the modern storyline only fits with the appropriate classical segment in a rather forced manner. While the concept is undoubtedly clever, the performance fails to bring out an all-important emotional connection with the audience.

The play, performed by an all-American cast, relates the problem of illegal immigration from the perspective of an asylum seeker hopelessly attempting to find his home. This is accompanied by strong overtones about the importance of family and the desire not to be forgotten by future generations. Although this does not necessarily lend itself most obviously to the epic, the play is well-thought out, and more often than not the comparisons can eventually be seen. One of the particular highlights was the minimalist set design and props that were used innovatively to create everything from the sea to sewing fabric. The cast were solid and performed well but in particular Tyler Matthew Burk, playing a sleazy sweat-shop owner, was a stand-out and was always incredibly watchable.

Unfortunately, the asylum-seeking protagonist struggling through different backdrops, instead of creating pathos, forms almost a checklist of stereotypes – from a rich but insensitive foster family to vagrancy and a brothel. The script, penned by Naomi Iizuka, was not the sharpest and it seemed that the frequent use of “like” was out of place and unnecessary; yet at other times it had moments of brilliantly acerbic observations, for example “why does there always have to be a storm?” One of my main criticisms was that the Odysseus character Anon, rather than the brave, war hero able to express himself eloquently, seemed instead a frightened, pathetic boy, running away from the various situations.

The performance is worth watching and at times very chilling, especially in one scene where the entire cast, lit solely by candles, whisper in unison: “my name is anonymous”. Although there are holes to be found and at times the Odyssey references feel clunky, the show remains enjoyable.

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