Pros: A well written piece on a gritty subject, told without cliché or sentimentality. Though the story and ending is known from the start, the clever writing sustains interest until the climax.
Cons: The lack of air conditioning in the Hope Theatre means it is not the place to be on the hottest evening of the year.
On Wednesday December 6th 1989, Marc Lepine entered the Ecole Polytechnique of the University of Montreal armed with a semi automatic rifle and a hunting knife, with the intention to kill women before turning the gun on himself. He murdered 14 women, injured 10 more and 4 men as well. In The Anorak, Marc Lepine tells his story from beyond the grave, leading the audience through the significant events in his life that led him to that moment.
It is a gritty and unflinching delivery of some really intelligent writing. Felix Brunger is utterly convincing in his portrayal of Lepine. There is a distinct lack of sentimentality – Brunger does not look for sympathy or any kind of pathos from the audience, which contributes to the character’s credibility. Brunger brings a disturbing calmness, interrupted by humour and occasional bursts of anger to Lepine’s dissertation, speaking in a stilted grammatical form, possibly drawn from the way Lepine’s suicide note was written. I believed the character completely, and grew increasingly unsettled as the 90 minutes passed. Author Kelly Morton captures the essence of how a seemingly ordinary man can be disturbed beneath the surface, and the series of events in his life that others may find unremarkable, collectively have a resounding impact on his already unstable mind.
The stage direction is impactful from the moment you enter the theatre. Staff direct women to sit on one side of the theatre, men on the other. Interestingly, there was not a spare chair on the women’s side, the men being fewer in number. Brunger then delivers Lepine’s story to the men in the room, making little eye contact with the women in the theatre until the day he enters the Ecole Polytechnique. It is weirdly disturbing and insulting to watch the story being told to another audience and as the play climaxes and attention is turned to the women in the room, I found being in Lepine’s gaze totally unnerving. My male companion, however, on the other side of the room felt connected with Lepine and a little friendly toward his character (hasten to add he does not share his views!). This production has been carefully and intrinsically developed, and the impact is really very deft.
The Hope Theatre is a new venture run by the fabulous Kings Head Theatre, just across the road in Upper Street. It is a nifty 50 seater above the Hope and Anchor pub, which is quieter than the Kings Head, but I can see that changing as the Hope grows in notoriety. It’s a fantastic addition to the London pub theatre scene and unfortunately suffers from the same issue that many pub theatres do – lack of air conditioning. I know it sounds petty, but on a hot June evening, with a full house, stage lighting and a 90 minute production without an interval, it was touch and go whether I could sit in the stifling conditions till the end. I’m glad I did, as The Anorak is worthy of an attentive audience. Perhaps the Hope should consider investing in a couple of silent fans to keep the air moving on those rare, warm summer nights?
Written by: Adam Kelly Morton
Director: Matthew Gould
Booking until: 26th July 2014
Box office: 0207 478 0160