Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow
On one level, Martin Crimp’s seventeen-scene dramatic collage is the perfect vehicle for drama students on the verge of becoming professional performers. This is certainly the case with the fourteen-strong final year BA Acting ensemble who perform Guy Hollands’ production of Crimp’s 1997 play. With no linear narrative or any apparent through-line to play with, Crimp’s text leaves everything to the imagination. This is done in a way that invites a forensic dissection of a possibly unreliable homage to its central subject, a woman called Annie. Except sometimes she’s Ann, Anya and possibly other names we’re not being told.
Described throughout in the third person, Annie becomes a shape-shifting every-woman for all about her to project their own fantasies on as her various versions walk through history en route to someone resembling herself, whoever that is. She might be a terrorist, a suicide or a porn star, a poster girl for identity politics in post-modern times or someone else entirely. Whatever, she’s always at the centre of everybody’s world.
Such an array of bite-size scenelets makes demands on both audience and performers, and it would be easy to heighten the play’s elliptical nature with an ice-cool sense of its own seriousnesss in its exploration of human frailty. Instead, Hollands has his cast walk among us in a torch-lit room where discarded detritus of past lives hangs down from the heavens. With lines from the play scrawled on the walls, each scene seems to contradict its own existence. The actors make a song and dance of things as much as argue themselves into corners, reinventing their notions of Annie as they go but never feeling sad for her loss.
The result of such constant reinvention is a kind of immortalised martyrdom that hints of life elsewhere. As for Annie, if she was ever really here at all, she remains elusive, untouchable and forever just out out of reach.
The Herald, November 1st 2018