Review – Anna Christie, Donmar Warehouse

Friday 12 August 2011

Dear Andrew,

They say you can’t be in two places at the same time, but obviously the Whingers can. You swanned off to the Edinburgh Festival and unlike last year, you haven’t even had the courtesy to send even a postcard.

Your departing instructions were to “mop the surrounds”: take in the Pinter you suggested or perhaps the Caryl Churchill. Thanks a bundle.

Then you handed me the much sought-after tickets for Anna Christie – hot presumably because Jude Law is in it and not because you’ve been holding them in clammy palms. And it is a Eugene O’Neill to boot (not a master of the art of  brevity) while you’ll be seeing shows in Edinburgh that last what –  an hour or less?

But what would you have made of it? In a Being John Malkovich sort of way I’m going to try the unthinkable and get inside your head and imaginge what you’d have made of it.

You would definitely have struggled with the slightly listless opening act, despite being set in a bar and copious quantities of alcohol being knocked back. You would have wished you were in a hostelry yourself.

You would have moaned about the audibility of a couple of some the accents. Try this for size. “No. Ven she vas little gel, Ay vas bo’sun on vindyammer. Ay never gat home only few time dem year. Ay’m fool sailor fallar.” Then you’d have perked up and giggled when they started talking about Kris Kristofferson. But you would at least have heard that correctly,  though it was actually a coal barge captain Chris Christopherson (David Hayman) so like me you would have been very disappointed. And no, Kenny Rogers doesn’t get a look in.

You would probably have been nodding off by the time Chris’ daughter Anna (Ruth Wilson), who he hasn’t seen for 15 years, turns up sporting a coiffure styled in the Jane-Horrocks-just-got-up-and-can’t-get-a-comb-through-it-look.

You would have looked at the set and thought “Donmar house style” but been impressed as the stage rose from horizontal to a steep rake as the stage is changed for the barge that Anna joins her father on.

You would have sat there, like the women next to me who leant forward in anticipation every time a character entered, wondering, “where’s Mr Law?” There is no sign of him for the first 50 minutes but things do perk up considerably when he appears.

You definitely would not have been able to sleep during the storm scene as the stage rose even higher but you’d have fretted about sightlines for the people in the side stalls. And you always enjoy it when the designer uses real water for rain don’t you?

You’d have marvelled at Jude’s chest, stripped and ripped after he was hauled onto the barge from a shipwreck and been on to your personal trainer first thing the next morning.

But you’d have scratched your head occasionally, despite his impressive Irish accent and wondered what he said when he got a laugh from only one side of the audience and thought, “Thrust staging? I rest my case”.

And you you’d have been impressed by his character Jude’s physicality as he lifted a brass bed, a rocking chair and Chris Cristopherson – although sadly not all at the same time.

You see, Jude’s Mat falls for Anna and and it becomes a tug of love between him and her father and it all gets a bit out of hand and you’d probably have said “It got a bit shouty didn’t it? They did keep me awake.”

And by the interval which finally arrived after I hour 50 minutes you’d have wanted to leave saying something like “I think I’ve got the gist” and I’d have said but there’s only half an hour left as director Rob Ashford has rather peculiarly opted for the interval between Acts 3 and 4.

And you’d have come back grumpily and looked at those empty seats next to us where the women who had obviously just come for Jude’s chest had been sitting and envied their exit. But I think you’d have been glad you returned as the last Act is most effective and the story doesn’t turn out the way you’d expect.

And you’d come out thinking that Law, Hayman and Wilson were most impressive in their roles despite struggling to understand the men’s accents. And I’d have nodded in agreement and we’d have gone off for our post show tincture and you’d have ordered a lager an’ ale and referred to it as your “suds” because that’s what Jenny Galloway who only appears in Act 1 does as you rather admire her don’t you?

But it’s rather exhausting being inside your head isn’t it? Now where are those postcards?


3 Responses to “Review – Anna Christie, Donmar Warehouse”

  1. webcowgirl Says:

    Hmm. I can’t help but think I ought to just sell my ticket after reading this.

  2. ja Says:

    I enjoyed it very much but as a Swedish speaker, I felt David Haymann’s accent was the worst since the Muppets chef. Concur on the odd interval timing.

  3. pb Says:

    Saw this on Saturday – Ruth Wilson was brilliant.
    Play was pretty dull – I might have missed something but it seemed to take an awful long time to tell a story that could be summed up in one sentence.
    Jude Law’s beard was disappointing, also because I have since hear it was fake.
    The accents were bewildering – I’m sure Law was speaking West Indian at one stage – but it was nice of him to show such a wide variety of accents in just one part.
    Could have skipped it really.

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