Anomaly (Old Red Lion Theatre)

Posted: January 14, 2019 in Theatre

Writer: Liv Warden      Director: Adam Small


“Post-Weinstein. Post-Spacey. Pre-Preston” reads the publicity for Liv Warden’s debut play, Anomaly, Philip Preston being the pivotal, albeit unseen, figure. However, in an hour-long drama that is sharp, sensitive and powered by topicality, the writer concerns herself less with Preston’s misdemeanours than with the impact on his three daughters. 

The oldest daughter, Piper (Natasha Cowley) lives in Los Angeles, running her father’s film production company. She has been seduced by Preston’s power and a desire to replicate it. Next oldest, Penny (Katherine Samuelson) is a new mother, living in London and an aspiring actor, enticed by the industry’s glitz and glamour and getting a helping hand by using her father’s name. The youngest is a freer spirit, Polly (a particularly engaging performance from newcomer Alice Handoll) who has countered abuse within her family by turning to abuse of substances and is now in rehab.

The women are seen together on the same stage for almost the entirety of the play, talking directly to the audience or responding remotely to their sisters or to pre-recorded voices. However they are never in the same room, the closest to communication between them coming with telephone calls and a three-way interview on a radio programme. 

Warden’s account of a show business world of instant fame and media prurience resonates, but it is her depictions of power and complicity that chill most. All three women had known for many years that their father was a serial adulterer and a violent abuser within their family, but they had remained silent. The play searches for their motives.

The non-appearance of the villain leaves a hole in the play, but his inclusion could have blurred its focus and it is doubtful if any actor could have made him more odious than his description. Possibly more damaging is the lack of the direct confrontations which could have provided much needed dramatic force. Adam Small’s production builds up tension effectively but the climax lacks impact and, intriguing though the play’s ideas are, it ends leaving us feeling slightly underfed.

Performance date: 10 January 2019

Photo: Headshot Toby

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub:

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