Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie is the story of a girl with a past. After reconciling with her old sailor father after 15 years, she falls in love with a man who is plucked from a wreck. Played out against the power that is “dat ole devil sea”, what a storm unfolds before you in the intimate space of the Donmar Warehouse.
The design, by Paul Wills, is changed from scene to scene by a small group of shanty-singing sailors. They create a dive of a bar before completely transforming the stage into a boat at sea as the floor tilts up on a huge angle, water cascades from the sky, swirling fog engulfs the theatre and bodies are pulled up. The sense of power and intensity in this beautiful scene alone is a lot to take in as the sound scape puts you dead centre of a ferocious storm, only to be settled upon the realisation that the last remaining body is that of Jude Law.
With a design that creates such an impact, I am pleased to say that the acting continues to grip you, with blinding performances by Law, Ruth Wilson and David Hayman. After seeing Wilson in A Streetcar Named Desire she makes a welcome return in the title role here. Her character presents herself as a strong confident woman, but, as much as she tries to hide her past, her breakdown is hard to watch – particularly when Mat Burke (Law) discovers his devotion to her is tarnished by her past. Credit to Law that, despite a wavering Irish accent, he deals with a character who shows all extremes of a personality in a small space of time. Hayman, as Chris, also goes through a journey of extremes; from being a drunk, a protector and a proud father, to being guilty of leaving his little girl to a life on water.
The trio drive a story that is perhaps a little thin, but keeps you watching as the relationships change rapidly from scene to scene. A good production that is heightened by being in such an intimate venue. Sadly, as I often find with The Donmar, tickets can be very hard to find because it is a smaller venue and an army of faithful investors snap up tickets in minutes. However I would urge all AYT readers to sign up for its Donmar Discovery Scheme for a chance of getting hold of tickets for this production.
Anna Christie is playing at the Donmar Warehouse until 8th October. More information can be found on the Donmar Warehouse website.