Review: Anomaly, Old Red Lion Theatre

Anomaly places itself at the heart of the Time’s Up and #MeToo movement. Focusing on three daughters of a media mogul, Philip Preston, who has just been exposed in his own Weinstein moment, Anomaly imagines the process of a private turmoil slowly becoming public. But this is more than just a timely response to recent news events; this is an exploration of the abuse of family.

“Post-Weinstein. Post-Spacey. Pre-Preston,” reads the poster. Yet we never meet, or even hear Preston’s voice. This piece is led by his daughters, who have lived in his shadow from childhood to adulthood. Piper, Penny and Polly represent three different reactions to the same trauma in this fast-paced, yet simple debut play written by Liv Warden.

Piper played with an excellent just-about-to-crack intensity by Natasha Cowley, is the uptight, but career-driven heir to the Preston International film company throne, ready to “fix” the next scandal. Katherine Samuelson is believable as the glamorous, film star Penny. Alice Handoll’s Polly balances both comedy and tragedy brilliantly, as she plays the sister who cast the limelight aside, and found herself in rehab instead.

The performances are side by side, and interact only via mobile phone. This physical closeness on stage, as all three are dressed in black, helps to emphasise the distance in thought between the sisters as they weather the latest Philip Preston scandal. It’s tinged with sadness as they turn on one another, and the simplicity of the staging creates rawness.

This is fast-paced, emotive, but not lacking warmth. It is a believable narrative not just in its parallels to Weinstein, Spacey, and more recently Green, but also in its presentation of three sisters, still confused about who their father is, and how they should react. What do you do when you’re taught that family is everything, but your family is toxic from within?

There are male voices, but they remain faceless and their father is not given a presence beyond the mention of his name, and the description of his acts, from grievous bodily harm to molesting children. A fitting omission.

Anomaly is deceptive in its almost subtle simplicity. It’s one of those pieces of theatre that you don’t realise how powerful it is until you leave the theatre and it stays with you like all good theatre should. It speaks to now, and is very worthwhile viewing.

Anomaly is playing Old Red Lion Theatre until 2 February. For more information and tickets, see the Old Lion Theatre website.