Dorfman, National Theatre, London – until 15 June 2019
This is a taut thriller and an interesting and different play watching experience. At the curtain call of Anna, the cast holds up a series of cards which spell out ‘No Spoilers’ so I’m going to attempt to write my review without giving anything away.
It’s set in East Berlin in 1968 and centres on married couple Anna (Phoebe Fox) and her husband Hans (Paul Bazely) who are having a celebratory party but there is an underlying tension to the convivial atmosphere. Staged in a unique style, the apartment is set is behind a glass screen and each audience member has a headset through which to hear the dialogue.
At times there are blackouts (you are warned before you enter) and at others, Anna is in another room hidden from view but you can hear her clearly. It is an interesting and strangely intimate experience as you derive meaning from the sounds – the speed of footsteps, tone of voice or breath, for example.
Sounds become an important medium for telling the story; when you can’t see what is going it somehow amplifies every seemingly innocent noise, catapulting you into the heart of the unseen action which ramps up the tension.
It isn’t just a gimmick, projecting the audience into this unique position of observation is calculated, the meaning of which is only evident towards the end.
The narrative is tightly woven into the 65 minutes running time and is one in which not everything and everyone is as they appear. Fox presents Anna as a woman who below the bustling party host, loving wife surface is rattled and on edge.
You are presented with several possible explanations but the plot cleverly toys with what you perceive is going on – you sense danger but from where? There is one scene that feels unnecessarily overwrought but overall this is a taut thriller and an interesting and different play watching experience.
I’m giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
See it at the National Theatre until 15 June.
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Also at the National, Small Island is a cracking piece of theatre.
From the archive May 2010: My experience visiting the V&A theatre archive (and watching a recording of Ben Whishaw’s Hamlet)
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