Old Red Lion, London – until 2 February 2019
In 2017, when the #MeToo movement was in full swing, ‘blood was in the water’… For the first time in history, universal accountability was of paramount importance. For many of the accused, it wasn’t the first time they were the subject of rumours and allegations. However, because their status previously protected them and the women’s statements were generally discredited, the accusations dissipated. People in the movie industry like Harvey Weinstein were prime examples of the hitherto untouchable hegemony, but if he could take a fall, no one now was ‘safe’… Written by Liv Warden and directed by Adam Small, Anomaly is informed by recent events and the multifaceted accounts of women.
The head of a movie empire, Phillip Preston has been important and influential for decades. While he’s courted controversy in the past, nothing that came to light previously can compare with the irrefutable violence to his wife. This proves to be a Rubicon – a point of no return for his marriage, the company and the family…
On a superficial level, the Preston sisters can be compared to the Kardashians – all their names begin with the same letter and all involved in one way or other with ‘the family firm’. However, a more accurate analogy would be a reversal of the King Lear dynamic.
Possessing the ‘keys to the kingdom’, Piper (Natasha Cowley) is the person even the other executives look up to, to troubleshoot problems. Expected to behave and think ‘rationally like a man’, Piper’s ‘marriage to the job’ has affected the amount and quality of time with her own husband. Penny (Katherine Samuelson) works as an actor and in PR. Just like her mother, Penny is a facilitator who does her best to hold the family together. Naturally empathic and often putting on a brave face, her public persona hides the fact she feels things deeply and takes things to heart. Like Piper, Penny is also married, but as a young mother with a full-time career, the revelations emotionally take their toll. And then there’s Polly (Alice Handoll). The youngest of the three, she spends most of her time in a rehab clinic. However, news of her mother has spurred her to break out and see how she is.
For all the sisters, one pivotal event in their youth has shaped their outlook and their thinking about what choices they have. Piper wants… needs… to bring order and rein in the negative publicity. She’s done it once. She has to do it again. It also could be argued that she’s put into an impossible position and that since her teenage years, she’s always had to put duty and family first, regardless of her own feelings. In contrast, Polly does the ‘right thing’ by bringing to light certain things on social media – her anger palpable after years of silence. On a material level, speaking out potentially could end the ‘family firm’ and all who depend on them, but more importantly, the emotional fallout for the family will have greater, devastating consequences.
All the actors deliver top-notch performances – building on the complex written characters they’ve been given, and showing the dissonance between what they’re feeling and what they ‘must’ say and do.
While Anomaly raises questions about the complicity of some women in the ‘silencing’ of accusations, the play also shows how women from the earliest age are coerced into denying their emotions and not ‘rock the boat’ for the ‘greater good’…
© Michael Davis 2019
Anomaly runs at Old Red Lion Theatre until 2nd February.
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