Arcola Theatre, London – until 12 October 2019
Guest reviewer: Claire Roderick
Lisa D’Amour’s Southern Gothic fable is described as a ghost story for three bodies with three voices. The three actors sit on a concrete plinth – perhaps the footprint of a trailer home – and play with tuning forks against a seemingly random collection of junk around their chairs as the audience file in, and the mystical tone of the play is laid out in Irene’s first lines: “When you are alive in one space for such a long time, the things that you remember mix with the things that are happening now, and the things you dream about.”
The unreliable narrators are Irene (Beverly Rudd), a 25-year-old single mother who never leaves the trailer home, her 10-year-old daughter Annabella (Gabrielle Brooks) and Anna Bella Eema (Natasha Cottriall), the little girl Annabella makes out of mud.
Irene licks stamps for a living and tells tales of vampires and werewolves coming to visit as Annabella tries in vain to make her acknowledge the realities of life outside her home as the rest of the community move out to make way for the new Interstate. It is obviously not going to end well for the family, but the mind-bending ride that director Jessica Lazar takes you on before the inevitable happens is spectacular.
With mysticism from different cultures – Anna Bella Eema has shades of Golem, animal spirits of the land and mischievous sprites all tumbling playfully around in her being – jumbled up with soap opera/reality TV situations, the narrative loops around, races towards dead ends and scatters to the winds, but never loses its grip on the audience.
The tuning forks the cast play with are used along with the junk as musical instruments as they switch between gloriously lyrical speech and song, creating a magical soundscape with Tom Foskett-Barnes’ stunning sound design and Chris Sidorfsky’s original score. The cast reacts in animalistic ways to almost every sound, making a production that mostly takes place on three chairs unbelievably dynamic.
As the cast take on different characters in each other’s dreams and memories, their versatility shines and all three excel in their hauntingly comic performances. Anna Bella Eema is bizarre and beautifully poetic – a must-see show.
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