Pros: Complex characters: both victims and accomplices, but either way, casualties of a patriarchal system
Cons: An over-dramatic ending with somehow undermines the credibility of the rest of the play
When Harvey Weinstein’s extensive abuse record came to light in the autumn of 2017, we all asked the same question: how was it possible that no one had previously exposed his appalling behaviour? Why did the world have to wait until some very brave women came forward to break this conspiracy of silence?
Liv Warden’s Anomaly puts the spotlight on the damage and trauma inflicted on the immediate family of Phillip Preston, an international media mogul and figure of immense power who, like Weinstein and so many untouchable others, leaves a trail of destruction and pain behind him with total impunity.
When Preston is arrested on charges of grievous bodily harm against his wife, his empire quickly begins to crumble. His two elder daughters, Polly (Natasha Cowley) and Penny (Katherine Samuelson), try to contain the media backlash and continue their celebrity lives as usual. Their estranged younger sister, Piper (Alice Handoll), leaves the rehab clinic to look for her mother and starts tweeting against her father and uncovering dirty family secrets.
Warden has skillfully created three complex characters who don’t allow a straightforward judgement. While Penny and Polly have been victims of their father’s behaviour and the chauvinistic men around him, they are also accomplices in the abuse he was inflicting on themselves and so many other women, including their mother and younger sister. However, rather than hatred or contempt, these two women inspire sadness for choosing to turn a blind eye oppress others, for the sake of maintaining their own privilege.
Then we have Piper, physically and mentally abused by her father, who can’t even take part in the entitled lifestyle of her sisters; quite the opposite, being constantly in the public eye only makes her suffer from all kinds of nasty vituperation from the press because of her drug addiction.
Lastly we have the mother, who like Preston is absent in the play but whose silence is nonetheless heard. This is a woman who, Piper tells us, has witnessed continuous infidelities and degradations from her husband, the last a vicious and violent attack which almost killed her. Unlike the many unknown and less privileged women whom the mogul had abused, and whose voice would have never been heard, Preston’s wife, a wealthy upper class woman, chose to remain silent, either out of fear, or to protect her family, or both.
The three actors give a captivating and engaging performance. They never talk to each other directly, which maybe implies an invisible barrier between the sisters. Charlotte Dennis offers a simple but telling set, where white walls and floor are scarred by a blood read breach made of paper clippings and tabloid headlines. A very timely and relevant play which constructively engages with the #MeToo movement.
Author: Liv Warden
Director: Adam Small
Producer: WildChild Productions
Box Office: 0333 012 4963
Booking Link: https://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/anomaly.html
Booking Until: 2nd February 2019