Story of Anne in 17 pieces is compelling, touching and provocative, reviewer says

Who or what is Anne?

That is the question raised by Martin Crimp’s play “Attempts on Her Life,” now playing at Theatre Junction Grand in Calgary. The 17 different variations of Anne, or An(e)e, or Anny created by Crimp include a model, a terrorist, a porn star, a luxury vehicle and a particle to name only a few.

Crimp uses Anne to represent an entire generation. She succumbs to things we each have to deal with: life and death, truths and lies, accuracies and falsities. He brilliantly depicts these juxtapositions through Anne by using only other people’s interpretations and impressions of her.

Throughout the production, Anne, who is never seen or heard from directly, is brought to life through the conversations of eight strong performers. They describe her as “always being in control of everything,” but it is apparent as the play progresses that Anne is simply out of control.

Together, these performers create a portrayal of this girl through fast and witty dialogue. The characters act as a puzzle piece, and each time one is revealed, the overall picture of who Anne is becomes clearer.

In particular, one powerful scene gives the audience a broader picture. A round-table discussion between three critics at an art show presents photos, videos and materials collected in Anne’s apparent suicide attempts. Even though the exhibit is never shown, this hallmark scene has the critics face off in a battle of taste deciding where the line is drawn in art and if it has been crossed.Alexandra Ordolis performs a monologue from Martin Crimp’s play, “Attempts on Her Life.”
Photo courtesy of: Doug Springer

It’s a discussion you might expect from the audience members as they leave this performance.

Mark Lawes’ direction keeps the actors frolicking, jumping, and moving in unexpected ways, which help capture the attention of the audience during the dialogue-heavy show.

The play has musical aspects to it as well.

Lawes shows off his directional skills when during a scene, the sombre conversation quickly turns into a thunderous rock concert – all without jarring the audience.

The sparse set — also created by Lawes — is able to transport the audience from a beautiful parquet-floored Italian apartment to a seedy porn studio in downtown London.

This is done by using only a handful of props, some mattresses thrown on the floor and half a dozen television sets that display live video feed throughout the performance. The design nicely complements Crimp’s ideas on how the media influences our lives.

“Attempts on Her Life” plays at Theatre Junction Grand until Feb. 25. There is an age restriction of 16 years and older for explicit language, content and nudity.

This British import is a rarity in Calgary, and it should be approached with an open mind, but it should not be missed.

Tickets are available at theatrejunction.com.

skingsmith@cjournal.ca