Thursday, 5 April 2007

Attempts on her Life

28th March 2007

Katie Mitchell and her ensemble have recreated Martin Crimp’s 1997 play in a brilliant fashion. It’s as if everything they’ve done from A Dream Play, via The Waves and The Seagull has found its culmination in this. The mix of live action, video and music is challenging and engaging. It’s not simply a gimmick - it encourages us to think about the way the world is shown by the media and the condition of the society we live in. It’s both extremely funny as well as moving.

The play boasts no plot or consistent characters. The individual scenes offer different accounts of someone whose name is a variation of ‘Anne’. The ‘attempts’ of the title are not simply ones of assassination, they are also attempts to create, understand and give meaning to character. By bookending the piece with the vacuous babbling of a brainstorming session about the imagined qualities of ‘Anne’ the production offers both a critique and description of our society in the 1990s and now.

The production uses the vastness of the Lyttelton stage to good effect. The performance area is littered with cameras, lights, musical instruments and various scene-setting props. It also shows the difference between film performance and live performance. By simultaneously showing the stage and projected versions of a scene, the audience is asked to think about what it sees in the mass media and the way reality is presented. In addition the technique illustrates how film and video can overlay a sordid reality with a veneer of glamour.

The ensemble work is excellent with the cast switching characters, operating cameras and lights and playing musical instruments as though part of a giant fluid dance. Two of the scenes are turned into songs, adding an even greater edge of excitement to the production. Other scenes that stood out were the spoof of advertisement for a car called the ‘Anny’, a pastiche of Newsnight Review and an oblique reference to seminal 90s tv show ‘The X-Files’

What informed Crimp’s play in the 1990s is still true now. In Katie Mitchell’s production Attempts on her Life has not just been revived – it feels recreated for a new century.

Lyttelton until 10th May

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