This review comes from Night Writes guest reviewer Gabriella Florek
Just as the title of Martin Crimp’s 1997 play can be interpreted in different ways by an innocent reader, the script itself is left open for the the artists involved in its staging. With little direction from the playwright as to how many actors should perform and who speaks the lines, making creative decisions becomes, arguably, an even more precarious task than usual.
Much of the intrigue of this production is that from very early on, the audience has little choice but to submit to the chaos of unanswered questions, an elusive protagonist, and a blur between a tangible performance and a recorded but warped reality. The cast were agile in switching between stage and screen performance, even if it was comically melodramatic. Armed with a large video camera, many of the scenes in this production were filmed live by the performers and projected for the audience. It often felt as though there were three separate performances: one happening on stage, one being recorded, and the act of filming itself. This added an extra dimension to an already tricky play, but it mostly seemed to aid rather than hinder the telling of the story.
As director, Saro Lusty-Cavallari managed to steer clear of giving the audience obvious answers or a concrete plot, but at the same time, he did a good job at grounding them in this peculiar, absurd, and empty world – a difficult task without any obvious characters to carry them through. It could be tempting for a director to try and create Anne, to personify her or try and act her out in various forms, but, instead, this production placed emphasis on the conversations that are had about but without her. For me, this seemed to highlight the very real idea that so often, although we are saturated with stories about other people, they are rarely kept alive in our consciousness through real or personal knowing.
The actors deftly moved from poignant moments to humorous scenes. Lucy Burke and Lucinda Howes in particular did a wonderful job at flexing their comedic muscles, strongly supported by the more grounded narration by Bridget Haberecht and Josephine Lee. Of all performers, Ebony Tucker seemed to have landed the more emotional segments – coming close (perhaps closest) to portraying any kind of obvious Anne figure that the audience could latch onto to sympathise with. It’s a strong ensemble, each performer with their own unique flair for painting the story about the Anne we never see.
Cleverly designed by Rita Naidu, the performers in their crisp black business wear and bare feet, further emphasised the idea that what we are watching is a kind of presentation, a proposal, or a formal dissection of someone’s life. It highlighted that what we were seeing was a story or, more specifically, the job of telling it – nothing more. And, as we all know, just as stories can’t be trusted at the best of times, neither can their narrators.
Montague Basement delivers a provocative and sophisticated performance of a story that we may never understand, about a character who we never meet, in a theatre that will soon close its doors. A fitting farewell to KXT’s home in The Cross.
Attempts on Her Life is running at Kings Cross Theatre from July 15th – 30th
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