Tag Archives: Anna Lewis

Anna Bella Eema


Arcola Theatre

Anna Bella Eema

Anna Bella Eema

Arcola Theatre

Reviewed – 16th September 2019



has a constant freshness and fascination


Receiving its UK premiere at the Arcola Theatre, Pulitzer Prize finalist Lisa D’Amour’s spoken and sung Anna Bella Eema is an incredible piece of storytelling that leaves you open-mouthed – sometimes with wonder and often with mystification.

D’Amour has reworked the play since its 2001 first appearance in Texas and Jessica Lazar’s direction gleefully embraces the curiosity of a wild play that is probably undefinable. But even if we are not always entirely certain of what is going on, the production itself is magnificently polished with three central performances to make you sit up and take notice.

Anna Bella Eema is described as a ghost story for three bodies with three voices. If trying to pin a label on such an eccentric and esoteric work is even worth doing, the nearest one might manage is that it’s a feminist post-modern Samuel Beckett, though even he might have balked at including werewolves, talking foxes, traffic inspectors and a girl made out of mud in the same play.

The audience arrives to discover the three performers (identified only as One, Two and Three in the text) seated on three chairs on a solid rectangle that could define the area of the trailer in which they live or might represent something altogether more earthy and basic. The small set (Anna Lewis) is packed with personal belongings and other items that are sometimes struck or shaken to produce dynamic sound effects.

The performers rarely move from these chairs but colourfully narrate the story of an agoraphobic mum and her sassy ten-year-old daughter who are the only residents of a trailer park which is due to be demolished in favour of a new highway. Perhaps in a bid to ward off the approaching evil the young girl creates a mud girl, or golem, who becomes a friend, an alter-ego and a representation of creative indocility.

The result is a production with hypnotic intensity that doesn’t always work or strike home in the way it should (the fault of the play itself as much as anything), but which has a constant freshness and fascination.

As the young mother who has become a recluse in her trailer, almost oblivious to the world outside, Beverly Rudd is a commanding figure. Unpredictable and ferocious, yet delicate, her Irene/One speaks as easily about being visited by a werewolf as she does seeing a social worker. We sense that the world she inhabits (as trapped in her home as Nell is in her dustbin in Beckett’s Endgame) is often beyond her comprehension and everything she says and does is a deluded retreat from reality.

Equally compelling is Gabrielle Brooks as the precocious and imaginative daughter Anna Bella/Two, a lively and cheeky portrayal of a young girl on her own voyage of discovery, especially during a five-day coma. Brooks shows us a girl as eager to escape the confines of her existence as her mother is to be imprisoned by it.

Natasha Cottriall’s Anna Bella Eema/Three has an air of the mythic but also a down to earth impertinence that reflects the dreams of her “creator” as she changes the lives of the people around her forever.

Music and sound designer Tom Foskett-Barnes is the unseen fourth performer, as a scintillating soundscape is produced in music and effects which are as important to the narrative as the lines themselves.

In some ways this is an inscrutable coming of age story, in others the theme is broader (the invasion of the all-American dream, shades of last year’s film The Florida Project), with all three females being aspects of each other, with a keen desire to fight the unrelenting destructive tide of progress.

Anna Bella Eema’s otherworldly and magical perspectives in this Atticist and Ellie Keel co-production with the Arcola may often lead to bewilderment, but even in the confusion this is American Gothic with a touch of the outlandish, poetic and profound.


Reviewed by David Guest

Photography by Holly Revell


Anna Bella Eema

Arcola Theatre until 12th October


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Mrs Dalloway | ★★★★ | October 2018
A Hero of our Time | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Stop and Search | ★★ | January 2019
The Daughter-In-Law | ★★★★★ | January 2019
Little Miss Sunshine | ★★★★★ | April 2019
The Glass Menagerie | ★★★★ | May 2019
Radio | ★★★★ | June 2019
Riot Act | ★★★★★ | June 2019
Chiflón, The Silence of the Coal | ★★★★ | July 2019
The Only Thing A Great Actress Needs, Is A Great Work And The Will To Succeed | ★★★ | July 2019


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King’s Head Theatre



King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 13th February 2019



“accessible and contemporary, whilst still including the powerful singing and acting operas are known for”


In a new English version of a classic, much-loved opera, Carmen (Jane Monari) is portrayed as a young woman working minimum wage jobs on the “front-line of Britain’s crumbling service industry”. Jose (Mike Bradley), written as a soldier in the original opera, is a hospital nurse who falls madly in love with Carmen. Add the romantic interest of famous footballer Escamillio (Dan D’Souza), originally portrayed as a bullfighter, into the mix and you have a passionate tale of love, jealousy and toxic relationships, British audiences of today should be able to relate to on many levels.

As the overture begins, played on just two keyboards, the dark nature of what we are about to see is immediately made clear. Carmen slowly emerges from the audience, with the two other characters then joining her on stage as part of a dimly lit, intense opening sequence.

During the first half of the performance, which is arguably more light-hearted than the second, we see Carmen and Jose’s relationship develop. This is then hindered by the introduction of Escamillio, who arrives at the karaoke bar Carmen works in. Passions ignited, Carmen is torn when Jose must go on the run after stealing thousands of pounds worth of drugs from the hospital he and Carmen used to work in, and wants her to join him. Carmen accepts, but soon realises she may have made a mistake, as darker times ensue.

Set and lighting design by Anna Lewis and David Doyle is effective and enhances the mood of the production. Furthermore, the props used are in keeping with its modern feel. Direction by Mary Franklin is polished, with smooth transitions between scenes and accomplished performances from those on stage.

This version of Carmen is ideal for those who have perhaps never thought to go and see an opera. You may be put off by their usual length or have simply decided they’re not for you. Think again. This production is accessible and contemporary, whilst still including the powerful singing and acting operas are known for. Running at just under two hours, including an interval, it won’t be a late finish, either.


Reviewed by Emily K Neal

Photography by Nick Rutter



King’s Head Theatre until 9th March


King’s Head Theatre – winner of our 2018 Awards – Best London Pub Theatre


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Hamilton (Lewis) | ★★★ | September 2018
Canoe | ★★★½ | October 2018
La Traviata | ★★★★ | October 2018
No Leaves on my Precious Self | ★★ | October 2018
Beauty and the Beast: A Musical Parody | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Brexit | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Buttons: A Cinderella Story | ★★★★ | November 2018
Momma Golda | ★★★ | November 2018
The Crumple Zone | ★★ | November 2018
Outlying Islands | ★★★★ | January 2019


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