CUPPERS: Attempts on Her Life (Wadham)

Thu 8th November 2012

reviews

Tim Bano

at 09:27 on 10th Nov 2012

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This adaptation of Martin Crimp’s fragmented play was visually striking. Everything was highly stylised - the actors were all dressed in black and white striped mime costumes, with faces painted white. The play consisted of three attempts to describe the elusive protagonist Anne, interspersed with cryptic answerphone messages addressed to her. Crucially, we never meet Anne; it was a reflective piece that, sometimes humorously and sometimes seriously, criticises criticism. By highlighting the pretension of art analysis the audience is put in the position of questioning their response to the piece of art in front of them.

The first scenario involved some of the actors building Anne’s story, assembling and imagining the ‘basic ingredients’ of her life. It started quite seriously, with the writers adopting stony faces but gradually the main actor begins to get more and more excited and, as he and his team work out the little details of Anne’s life, his lines get quicker and his passion builds. The lead in this section was good, adopting the physicality of a mime-artist by using his hands and arms, and moving across the width of the stage. He interacted well with the other actors, seeming quite natural in his closeness to them. Occasionally a bit of clarity was lost in the lines of the other actors, but the intriguing situation and the unusual costumes compensated for these minor blips.

An art exhibition on the theme of suicide, with two opposing critics, comprised the second scenario; the two leads in this section were very good at conveying their polar viewpoints, contributing to a discussion that was a cross between Newsnight Review and Vulva from Spaced. The other actors stood perfectly still in a line in the background, one with a tie noosed around her neck, another with a pair of scissors hanging off his fingers – again creating a visually rich scene, around which the speaking parts wandered and interacted.

Finally, a Russian car manual detailing the specifications of ‘Annie’, “we understand that the Annie comes with air-conditioning”. Again, a puzzling piece but distinctly more humorous. And two glamorous models stood at the back to enact what the manual was saying. The play as a whole displayed some very strong acting talent combined with quite bold, visually exciting direction to ensure that a difficult and enigmatic play was understandable, engaging and memorable.

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