We Anchor in Hope
Reviewed – 3rd October 2019
“a richly atmospheric show about memory, community, and what it means to let go.”
The stage area of The Bunker Theatre has been transformed into a neighbourhood pub. With a fully-functioning bar, ‘The Anchor’ is open an hour prior to each performance for drinks and pool. There’s no need to go out to the foyer for a pint during the interval. A pub quiz every Tuesday night after the show, and karaoke every Thursday night, completes the transformation.
Written by Anna Jordan and directed by Chris Sonnex, We Anchor in Hope is a simmering, uneasy piece that reminds us how precarious our footholds are in society’s ever-shifting landscape. Designed by Zoe Hurwitz, The Anchor is a working-class, locals’ pub. It’s an old bastion in its Pimlico neighbourhood, but the play begins on its last day in business. The year is 2016. The referendum has just passed. The owner calls The Anchor a “safe place”, a haven from the madness. But while we may be safe inside, Jordan and Sonnex ensure we’re constantly aware of the tides of change lapping at the doors. The Anchor won’t withstand the relentless waves of gentrification.
The two young bartenders are Pearl (Alex Jarrett) and Bilbo (Daniel Kendrick). Pearl has grown up in bars. She remembers being six years old, colouring in colouring books while her mum flirted at the pool table. Bilbo got his nickname from his love of The Hobbit. Raised in foster homes, the community at The Anchor is the closest thing he’s had to family. Regulars Frank (David Killick) and Shaun (Alan Turkington) are in almost every day. Frank, in his seventies, is a fixture at the pub. He’s seen it change hands from father to son. Shaun works construction during the week, and goes home at the weekends to see his wife and kids. Kenny (Valentine Hanson) owns the pub. It’s been a rough few months for him. His wife left around the same time he was forced to sell The Anchor.
The crew decide to have one last hurrah on The Anchor’s final night. The last of the alcohol needs to be drunk. “When it’s gone, it’s gone.” As the night unfolds, tensions rise, secrets are revealed, and decisions are reached. The five personalities of the play are dynamic and complicated, compellingly brought to life by a talented cast. Killick stands out for his precise portrayal of The Anchor’s own anchor, Frank; Kendrick for his earnest performance of the down-and-out Bilbo.
We Anchor in Hope is largely a character study. It works for the most part, thanks to the vividness of the characters and the strength of the cast. However, the lack of narrative thread can make the show feel long at times. The beginning is slow, and the play takes some time to find its stride. More shape to the story would cut down the instances when the show seems to stall or drift.
Nevertheless, Jordan has skilfully captured the brief sigh of mourning – for the comfort of the status quo, and the nostalgia for the way things were – before the necessity of moving on. This is a working-class story. All communities must adapt with the changing times, but it’s the working classes that are hit the hardest. It’s harder punches they have to roll with, and while it seems clear the crew at The Anchor will survive – they are survivors – they’ll carry the bruises with them.
Jordan, Sonnex, and Hurwitz have created a richly atmospheric show about memory, community, and what it means to let go. Pull up a barstool and join in the bitter celebration for the end of an era.
Reviewed by Addison Waite
Photography by Helen Murray
We Anchor in Hope
The Bunker until 19th October
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: