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A CurtainUp London Review

by James Walters

Anapest is set in a run-down basement ‘somewhere in Europe’. The play concerns the lives of people brought together through necessity rather than friendship. Oskar (Chris Davies), a man whose slight build is compensated by an extraordinary sense of smell; Jess (Kim Evans), a young woman whose mind allows her to place or trace any given object at any given time; Lucy (Caroline Burns-Cooke), who is able to see alternate timelines, and determine what might have been; and Bonnie (Mirko Sekulic), a catalyst for change, who is able to see the destiny of an individual and steer them towards it.

Against the bleak backdrop of a world of raging consumerism, these people struggle to survive in a society that seeks to condemn them to death. The charge they face is that of simply being different. Their crime is having powers that stretch beyond the understanding of the common man.

Bigelow (Dean Moynihan), a henchman of the totalitarian government and ‘Agent of Consumerism’, stumbles across the group. In an emotionally charged yet darkly humorous finale, this band of social outcasts is forced to confront their seeming abnormality. Just how far are they prepared to go in order to free themselves from a life on the outcast fringes of society?

Lee Wochner’s projection into a soulless, subservient future calls for a certain kind of setting, indeed, a certain kind of venue. In this respect, the Courtyard Theatre in London’s King’s Cross provides the kind of claustrophobically intimate space that exponents of intense, actor-driven drama would quite willingly sell their grandmother for.

Visually and atmospherically the overall sense of the piece is one of stark depravity. This feeling is grasped and embellished in a set design by Phil Newman that oozes urban decay. Rotting carpets, hints of bare plasterboard and exposed air-conditioning ducts all pull together to produce the basement apartment from hell. With the audience quite literally sitting in the apartment with the actors, moments of extreme tension, such as a violent and unknown knocking at the room’s huge bolted door, were quite simply electrifying.

It is perhaps a pity then that the credibility of the piece was endangered by a simple lack of pace. As a consequence, it was difficult for an objective audience to empathise with these characters at times - characters who were the supposed possessors of super-human powers. Perhaps judgements on this matter were clouded by the twentieth century perception of special powers being in the domain of the spandex-clad comic book hero. The fact that the somewhat sluggish progress of the action detracted slightly from Wochner’s call for a mutual acceptance of difference is my only criticism in a production that brought a wonderful performance from Bigelow (Dean Moynihan). He swept in as a Southern American salesman and drawled his way through the second act with the customary sales pitches that, as we come to the end of a century of flagrant capitalism, have become common-place in all of our lives. The piece benefited greatly from his representation of the outside world invading the ‘safe’ environment of the rancid basement, and injected a certain edge into the close of the piece.

Director Edward Benson, competently holding the reigns of his first professional show will, I am sure, have learnt a lot from a baptism of fire on the London fringe.

By Lee Wochner
Directed by Edward Benson
With: Kim Evans, Chris Davies, Caroline Burns-Cooke, Mirko Sekulic and , Dean Moynihan
Set Design: Phil Newman
Lighting Design: Guiliano Bocca
Costume Design: Phil Newman
The Courtyard Theatre, 10 York Way, King’s Cross, London, N1 9AA Tel. 0171 8330870
From 16-28 February at 8pm
Reviewed by James Walters based on 18 February

© Elyse Sommer, February 1999

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