Pros: An interesting psychological thriller that deals with some challenging perceptions of memory.
Cons: The play builds too slowly and the performances don’t quite manage the overcome the weaknesses in the script.
The reliability of memory lies at the heart of KiteHigh’s Anna Weiss, an unsettling three hander playing in The Space on the Isle of Dogs.
Anna (Sandra Paternostro) is a hypnotherapist helping her young patient Lynn (Chloe Walshe) to come to terms with repressed memories from her abusive relationship with her father David (Charlie Haskins). Anna has co-ordinated a final meeting between Lynn and David to give her some closure on her past. However, when David questions the trustworthiness of Lynn’s memories. The unconventional relationship between Anna and her patient (they live together) is called into question and the meeting becomes a psychological minefield in which it is unclear whose memory is the accurate one, and if memory can ever be completely reliable.
The simple setting of the play, a house being packed up to move, reflects the nature of the memories in the piece Memories have been repressed and put into hiding. There are also things that have been put in boxes that can no longer be found, memories misplaced or misguided. Hints that things are not all they appear to be are scattered throughout, whether it is through these missing items or through Anna’s obsessive fixation on the untrustworthiness of others.
Competing with the echo in the room is tough and the actors fight hard, to contain their words so that they do not get lost in the space. The design, which is sparse but pleasant, heightens the drama in the right places; Seth Rook Williams’ lighting reflect the natural warmth and elegance of the space well and Thom Robson’s poignant piano composition resonates nicely through the room.
The performances are decent, but the script demands much more than that. Charlie Haskins is hard to believe as Lynn’s father – he is more like a violent video game obsessed teenage brother than dominating father. Unfortunately, the piece takes too long to warm up. Early exchanges are littered with dialogue that is repetitive to the point of boredom and the actors don’t manage to bring the right amount of energy to these moments to make them worthwhile. The performances fail to step up at some crucial points in the play, leaving the shocking content of some detailed accounts of abuse to do the hard work in a lot of places. Here in itself lies another problem of the play; it decides to shock and horrify its audience when it should be playing with their expectations. Overusing the word “fuck” does not a dramatic play make…
Abigail Pickard Price’s direction is simple and effective, but you feel that more could be made of some of the subtext – Anna and Lynn’s live-in relationship for example. You suspect that they might be lovers, but the chemistry between the two is not really there.
Anna Weiss is without doubt an interesting psychological drama with a well-executed climax that leaves its audience unsure who to trust. The problem is that it just takes a bit too long to get there, and you’re not necessarily willing to make the journey.
Author: Mike Cullen
Director: Abigail Pickard Price
Producer: KiteHigh Theatre
Box Office: 020 7515 7799
Booking Link: www.space.org.uk
Booking Until: 13 September 2014.