Old Red Lion, London – until 2 February 2019
Over the past year there’s been a big focus on the #MeToo movement following allegations against powerful men in Hollywood including Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. Now WildChild Productions’ latest play Anomaly offers a fresh perspective by telling the story of the perpetrator’s family – the women who are left behind to pick up the pieces.
Fictional media mogul and powerful film producer Phillip Preston has been charged with GBH following an assault his wife. His three daughters, who have built their lives around his name and are now all leading very separate lives, are left to cope with the chaos left behind in the wake of their father’s arrest.
It’s up to eldest daughter Piper (Natasha Cowley), businesswoman and heir to the Preston empire, to deal with her father’s lawyer and fellow Board members, while actress Penny (Katherine Samuelson) is forced to endure media scrutiny during her promotional interviews out in LA. Meanwhile youngest daughter Polly (Alice Handoll) has just left rehab and returns to the family home in search of her mother, only to be plagued by the paparazzi waiting outside.
Writer Liv Warden originally came up with the concept of Anomaly before the Weinstein allegations, but following developments in Hollywood she shifted the attention onto the family of media mogul who have lived their lives in the media eye. She’s developed a timely, all-too-relevant and unsettling story about how three women are affected by the abuse of power of men in their lives. Directed by Adam Small, Anomaly is a gripping production played out through powerful, emotional monologues, the odd dash of dark humour and tension which builds throughout and culminates in a shocking ending. It’s by no means an easy watch, but it’s an important play that needs to be seen and at times really packs a punch.
Charlotte Dennis’s minimal but effective set, resembling a tabloid newspaper, works well to remind the audience of the media focus on the family and the space is used well by the brilliant actors. Handoll, Cowley and Samuelson all put in strong, believable performances as the three very different sisters forced to cope as their worlds come crashing down. They convincingly portray the pressures that these women are under as they deal with the dark secrets that have been kept hidden from the outside world.
Though the three actors are on stage throughout, their interactions are limited to telephone calls and joint interviews – the sisters are never in the same room together – which does lose some emotional impact. Other characters in the play are represented by voice recordings, and while this does help to keep the attention purely on the three women, the idea does feel a little over-used by the end of the 70-minute play. Structural issues aside, Anomaly effectively explores some interesting ideas around family, loyalty and reputation, and brings to light the hidden victims of these high-profile scandals.