Old Red Lion, London – until 2 February 2019
In the light of #metoo, post-Weinstein, post-Spacey and post all the other creeps that have been exposed Liv Warden’s debut play Anomaly (produced by Wildchild Productions) looks at what happens to those in the crossfire, the wives, the daughters and all the other women affected.
Piper, Penny and Polly Preston are three sisters, less Chekov and more a cross between King Lear’s daughters and the Kardashians. When their father Philip, a Weinstein-esque figure with links to politics and film with an eye for women other than his wife is arrested for GBH after an attack on their mother.
Piper and Penny embrace the media spotlight. Piper (Natasha Cowley) is more like Elisabeth Murdoch, focused on the business side of Preston International but has no problems with the media attention. Penny (Katherine Samuelson) is an actress, new mother and all tits and teeth which fail to hide the fact that the smile never reaches the eyes. Polly (Alice Handoll), the youngest sister is a mess, coming out of rehab, a maniac with coke and booze addiction. Her escape from rehab when she hears what happens to her mother sets a catalyst in motion that will break the Prestons apart.
The cast of three never interact with each other directly, it is all phone calls as they live transatlantic lives and the use of Fuzz Guthrie’s sound design to project the voices of the anonymous but still powerful men in their lives. The sisters already seem distant from each other and their father’s scandal tears them apart further; from their lives, their loves and their reputations. Even their relationship with their battered mother is off, nobody tries to contact her assuming she has gone to an aunt something she always did when their father attacked or humiliated her.
I was gripped by this production Warden has observed these women like these characters with detail and clarity, both sympathetic to their predicament but not afraid to suggest that by tolerating their manipulative father they enabled him and reading unhappiness that has always been there but has been masked or protected by their father’s success. A scene where a studio executive (voiced by Georgina James) asks Penny if she thinks she would be a success without her father’s backing is heart-breaking as she is forced to confront something she has buried deep down.
Adam Small’s direction is interesting when the actresses aren’t speaking, they become shadowy figures in other scenes and Holly Ellis bright lights bring everything to surface yet at the same blinding as if shielding the audience from the truth. There are some loose ends, which could be frustrating but in stories like these, it is unlikely the women will have a happy ending that will be neatly tied up.