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Theatre Review: Anomaly @ Old Red Lion Theatre

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The #Metoo campaign is putting focus on the big dogs in the entertainment industry, and the sexism that has been allowed to fester there for decades.

Anomaly by Lucy Warden is a play about the impact the behaviour of a sexual predator leaves on the people closest to him. In this case, the daughters of fictional Philip Preston.

Images courtesy of Headshot Toby

Philip Preston, owner of the Billion Dollar entertainment company Preston International, has been charged with abuse of his wife. Their three daughters; Piper, (Natasha Cowley), Penny (Kathrine Samuelsen), and Polly (Alice Handoll) are left dealing with the ruin of the family name, and the memories of earlier abuse, affairs and detestable behaviour of their father.

Anomaly focuses on how being associated with a predator forces you to make some hard decisions. Do you cover it up, or do you fight, even if your own father is the one thats the bad guy?

This drama plays out on a very minimalistic, yet striking set by Charlotte Dennis. Three white boxes are placed on stage: one for each of the Preston girls. Blank, shiny walls, with a square surrounded by red light representing a window, and a red stripe of newspaper, reminiscent of the back-drop of Have I Got News for You. Perhaps this is a nod towards meddlers within the media or, an even more sinister interpretation: a red trickle, symbolic of the violence of such predatory crimes.

Anomaly deals with a lot of the issues that come part and parcel to being in the media spotlight. The three girls are almost always communicating in isolation, speaking through phone conversations or with unseen recorded other characters.

Alice Handoll is extremely charming as the rebel of the threesome, and we forgive her occasional stumbles over long monologues as she delivers the role of Polly with a matter-of-fact lightness that draws us in.

Katherine Samuelsen is amazingly real as the Hollywood sweetheart Penny, whose "in-front-of-the-camera" smiles and trying to cover up for her father can’t hide her vulnerability and shock at the situation. This performance combined with Natasha Cowley’s icy pantsuit business woman, really steals the show. They suck you in with their brilliant performances, though I wish that the actors got more of a chance to relate to each other, as all acting is done in phone calls or directed to people the audience can only hear. 

 

Images courtesy of Headshot Toby

As some very heavy subjects are brought up, and the sisters never actually meet, the writing doesn’t give them a chance to show that they are “just normal women” in how they relate to each other. Still, the audience are left feeling for these woman. This lack of real interaction at times gives the play a Kardashian like quality, making the Preston girls feel less real. Despite this, the brilliant acting performances still make you feel for them. 

Having them actually meet in the end might have been the one thing missing for it to really hit home.

All in all this is still a very impressive play. It is about what happens when the façade’s crack, and how the people left behind deal with it, and it is definitely worth a watch in our post #MeToo era.

Anomaly is running at the Old Red Lion until February 2nd, and tickets can be purchased here.

If you liked this, check out our reviews of Nine Night at Trafalgar Studios and Orange Polar Bear at the Birmingham Rep.




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