Old Red Lion Theatre
Reviewed – 10th January 2019
“Warden has raised important questions for our social media obsessed world”
Liv Warden’s play Anomaly is described as: “An unsettling debut play, exploring sisterhood, reputation and loyalty.” Phillip Preston, a powerful man in the film industry, has been arrested for GBH, after assaulting his wife. But the play is not about him. The only characters are his three daughters Piper, Penny and Polly, played by Natasha Cowley, Katherine Samuelson and Alice Handoll respectively, and their struggle to deal with what has happened to their family, and to cope with the media fallout. Piper, the eldest, works in the family business and has to try to keep it intact during the scandal following her father’s arrest. Penny is an actor in LA, who is in demand on the chat show circuit, and who has, until now, benefitted from being Preston’s daughter. Polly is the youngest, and the most fragile, newly out of rehab, both a catalyst, and a victim of excessive media attention.
The three women do not often communicate directly with each other, giving a fractured feeling to the play, appropriate to their fractured worlds. They are a strong cast, and each convince in their roles. Alice Handoll’s Polly is engaging and moving as a rebellious but vulnerable young woman. She is the only one who is worried about their mother. Penny becomes more ‘human,’ and likeable as the story develops, but Piper does not follow the expected route. It’s a tribute to Natasha Cowley that I really didn’t like her character, despite her moments of emotion as revelations pile up.
Holly Ellis’ lighting design, sometimes, having the sister who is speaking lit, while the other two remain in the shadows, works well to portray the separate struggles of the women and the lack of any true ‘sisterhood’. The voices of unseen characters, such as a talk show host, a radio presenter and Piper and Penny’s spouses work to provide context and give the women a way of telling their story. But, of course, those stories are twisted and manipulated by the media. The sister’s distant and chilly relationships fit beautifully into Charlotte Dennis’ white, contemporary set. It is hyperstylised, with a slash of red, like a torn piece of a tabloid headline and just three white blocks that the sisters sit on. The sound design, by Fuzz Guthrie is also atmospheric and abstract.
Anomaly an unsettling play that leaves the audience questioning; why do we fixate on family tragedy and the pain of others, particularly the rich and famous. And why do we still blame women who perhaps don’t speak out, or who cannot accept the reality of the male brutality that they are confronted with. Your father is still your father, if he causes serious harm to your mother. How would that feel, how would we cope if it happened in our family? Warden has raised important questions for our social media obsessed world, and Adam Small’s direction keeps the stylised world of the play on point. This play packs a punch with its timely look at an issue that has been brought to the fore by scandals like the Weinstein affair.
Reviewed by Katre
Photography by Headshot Tom
Old Red Lion Theatre until 2nd February
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