Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸
The Dorfman Theatre, in a turn of magnificent place-making manifests into a 1968 German Surveillance Centre, complete with headsets to listen in and a two way mirror. Ella Hickson’s new play Anna is not only a benevolent thriller, the design added by Ben and Max Ringham creates a theatrical atmosphere that has never been seen (or heard before). This is innovation in theatre.
As with any good thriller, there are a plethora of serious spoilers involved, but we were told ‘KEEP US SAFE’ ‘NO SPOILERS’, so, we of course won’t ruin the ridiculously well-written, suspense filled twists and turns of Hickson’s masterpiece. That being said, what we can tell you is that the trajectory is thrown off kilter by several gut-wrenching plot distortions, the likes of which engage and shock aplenty. Anna is set in East Berlin in 1968, just prior to the toppling of the wall. The work intriguingly focussing on what it was like to live under the communist rule of the German Democratic Republic. A time riddled with suspicion and fear over who to trust and who was listening, hence the surveillance thematics and the mentions of the party being a ‘safe space’. The action all takes place on one evening which we watch from Anna’s perspective. She and husband Hans are hosting a party at the suggestion of his new boss. The evening having been arranged for Hans’ work colleagues to celebrate his promotion. The guests subsequently arrive, whilst Anna’s mother’s unjust death in 1949 at the hands of Russian soldiers comes back to the forefront of her memory, the unexpected ensues as the two events collide.
As aforementioned the evening is shown from her perspective, this is intricately and beautifully built through the miraculous design, particularly that of the sound. Anna is mic’d and her audio is amplified and thus, all we hear, played directly into our headphones, (the reason for which comes abundantly clear). This creates an ASMR-style cacophony of sound, the perfect nod to this viral trend featured heavily on Youtube right now. The style allowing us to not only hear what Anna can hear, but her breathing, speaking and the sound of her movements combined, creating a listening experience that almost allows us to feel her movements through sound. This combine wondrously with the set design as its orientation blocks the bathroom, hallway and bedroom of the flat from total view, whilst the kitchen and lounge are central and visible, so when Anna is hidden spaces we are only able to listen in, engendering a scintillating sensation of spying, much like the reality of the time. Perpetuated further by the division of the stage, (Anna and Hans’ flat) by a perspex panel, parting the audience from the actors, the couple’s windows becoming a two way mirror through which we can look in and spy. Furthermore it is the moments Anna is out of view that build an exhilarating juxtaposition, whilst she is speaking of tragedy and loss, the party continues and the guests are shown to be jovially enjoying themselves, utter turmoil is contrasted by recreational enjoyment.
Much like Rosmersholm, (now playing the West-End, Duke of York’s Theatre), the piece ultimately pits politics against the personal. In Anna’s case political affiliation and involvement is secondary to personal ambition, much like many independent female character’s that have gone before her, she is willing to act in a typically ‘masculine’ manner, demonstrating the volition to sacrifice her morals for hot-headed revenge, however just it seems. And in this powerful role Phoebe Fox is an absolute joy, a maelstrom of emotion and utterly convincing, supported by a superb ensemble. Anna is one hour of pure thrills and physical gasps. With the most adroit innovations in design seen this year! You won’t want to miss it, click here to book now.
Phoebe Fox – Anna
Paul Bazely – Hans
Author: Created by Ella Hickson, Ben and Max Ringham (story by Ella Hickson)
Composer: Ben and Max Ringham
Director: Natalie Abrahami
Designer: Vicki Mortimer
Lighting: Jon Clark
Sound: Ben and Max Ringham
Movement: Anna Morrissey