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ABSOLUT Fringe review: Anna In Between by PillowTalk Theatre
Posted at 23:19 Tue 11th Sep 2012 IST
When a piece of theatre works really well, it's normally because of one major factor - everyone working on the show helped make it great. That's what happened with Anna in Between last night - the entire cast and crew had put the work in to make it special, and special it was.
There was something extremely appropriate about seeing Anna In Between on the evening of World Suicide Awareness day. We hadn't planned it that way - just work prevented me seeing an earlier show yesterday so it just so happened that this was on and we were free.
Before I get into the story, I should acknowledge that this was a preview, but despite that, it was excellent. The writing, the costumes, the music, the singing, the lighting and the script - all of a superb standard that impressed me. Okay, it's not completely perfect, but I still think there's something special about it. PillowTalk should be proud.
Anna is on a swing when we enter the theatre. Played by a visually stunning Sara Joyce, she quickly finds herself immersed in memories, half forgotten experiences, past conversations and former relationships where nothing really makes sense.
Fleeting glimpses of what made Anna do whatever it is she did to get here are offered, via sounds, song and chats. Characters pop up and in and out, talking, laughing, singing, dancing. With clever intertwining of stories - friends become their parents, angels (?) become employers, therapists become customers and back again, the ingenuity that writers Rosemary McKenna and James Hickson have brought to this is matched with the skill and enthusiasm of the cast members, with Anna/Sara stuck in the middle.
It's very clever - I wish there was a better word to use there, but clever seems most appropriate - at no stage did I feel the audience's patience was being taken for granted. Yes, we're asked to suspend disbelief, but not too much.
I hesitate at drawing comparisons with Alice in Wonderland, but there's a touch of the lead's "What's going on?" about it. The cast of seven, including a memorably sweet Peter Corboy and wonderful Camille Lucy Ross, obviously get on well together and know what they're doing - there was no trace of any actor trying to do anything but make the story the focus. Gerard Adlum, Anne Gill, Daithí Mac Suibhne and Roseanna Purcell round out one of the strongest casts I've seen so far in Fringe 2012. Sara in particular played the role with dignity, care and convincing sentiment.
This play is not trying to make you cry. There is no judgment here - no sense of accusation or of suggesting that there were alternatives for Anna. It doesn't feel preachy where it easily could have. She was simply out of her depth and hugely afraid of life, of making decisions and of getting too close to people and of losing them.
There's a lovely humour in the play too, helped by the songs which develop the plot and offer interesting insights into Anna's relationships. Jane Deasy's songs here are sympathetic and gentle, poignant and respectful. Costumes are particularly lovely and appropriate here, suiting the lighting and the set really well. As I say, it's a very solid production where every factor worked well together.
One small point is that it gets to a point where audience emotions are drained and it should end. I wanted it to end at one particular point last night, which would have been perfect, but it went on for a song extra. As beautiful and appropriate as the song was, it added minutes to a play that already had lots in it.
There was a lot of well deserved applause last night. Certainly a show that has had a lot of love and soul put into it, I'd have no problem seeing it again.
From the programme notes:
There are people who are sad and unhappy. Not because of any major tragedy or traumatic incident in their loves. Nobody died or disappeared on them.They have regular families, typical jobs and thoughtful friends, opportunities and decades ahead of them. But they struggle to stay on top of the day-to-day, everyday. Things and thoughts aren't easy. Getting out of bed, getting out of the house and getting on with the days and nights can be immense and impossible difficulties.It is a mental rouble. It is a depression that is difficult to communicate and to comprehend. That is difficult to put into words. That is difficult to have the energy to even try to put into words. And there are many people in such a position. We noticed them around us. Often. And so, if theatre is about telling stories, figuring out truths and honesties and looking at ourselves and those around us, then we wanted to make a play about this.It has been a collaborative process. We kept the central notion of making a play about a girl who wasn't able for things, who struggles every day with the world around her and for whom, eventually it all becomes too much. We started with workshops and asking an ensemble of actors to devise and improvise around these ideas. As images and characters began to emerge, so too did a narrative and the music.We ended up with a script and a score for 'Anna in Between', brought about by co-writers, a director, a composer and the actors. In which, we see the world that Anna was not able for. And a point that Anna ended up at.It is a musical, but not in the traditional sense - we've been calling it a play with songs. The music has been crucial; functioning where words often cannot. As Anna says 'I don't know why I feel like this, I just do.' There is no common denominator. Not any general diagnosis. But what we've done with 'Anna in Between' is try to show the difficulty in experiencing such depression as well as the difficulty in expressing it.
Congratulations to PillowTalk Theatre and all involved in Anna in Between. It's a gorgeous, emotional, touching and imaginative play and it deserves to be appreciated.
It plays until September 15 at Player's Theatre, Trinity College, Dublin. You can buy tickets online here.