Anna Bella Eema @ Arcola Theatre*

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Tickets and more information: https://www.arcolatheatre.com/whats-on/anna-bella-eema/
Booking until: 12th October
Run time: 1 hr 30 mins.
Production Photographs by: Holly Revell 

Anna Bella Eema follows a young girl called Annabella who builds a girl out of mud that comes to life and moves into the deserted trailer park home with Annabella and her mother Irene. Through a fairytale-esque, gothic and atmospheric productions lies beneath a story about a young girl and her mother both fleeing the nest.

One thing that sticks out to me from director Jessica Lazar’s production is just how much movement isn’t used. For the majority of the play, all three actresses are tied to their posts, emphasising how stuck these three characters are. Irene in the trailer, Annabella in the eyes of her mother and Annabella Eema in the eyes of her creator. It’s only when the play starts to go down a fairytale route does the play really start to come alive. The lighting design by David Doyle allows this to expand further and makes the piece come alive.

All three actresses give stellar performances. Beverly Rudd is simply mesmerizing as Irene, instantly gripping the audience with a tightly clenched fist. Her daughter is played by the brilliant Gabrielle who maintains a strong level of childhood wonder. Natasha Cottriall’s lack of speech as the title character brings fantasy into the present, as well as portraying other characters who pop up in the play (although personally I do think she was a tad underused at times!).

Gabrielle Brooks (Two (Annabella)) and Natasha Cottriall (Three (Anna Bella Eema) (c) Holly Revell

This is a really fascinating play because there isn’t anything quite like it around. I do think it could have been cut down a bit, the fairytale metaphors did drag on a bit. And, more often than not, the screechy singing (which worked in some moments) was far too distracting from the plot. That said, this was a pleasant surprise indeed.

Until next time,

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