What does everyone love about a pub? The characters, the stories, the reminiscing… and the booze. We Anchor In Hope wholly embraces this sentiment. Anna Jordan’s newest play centres on the closing of a local London pub. On its last night, the regulars and staff reminisce about the good old days, chatting, singing and drinking. However, as the doors are locked for the last time, the secrets of the pub and its visitors are unlocked.
Jordan’s writing wonderfully captures the vibrancy of the locals we know and love; the script buzzes with banter and makes me nostalgic for times spent in such establishments. The script occasionally transitions from the mainly naturalistic text to several spotlighted monologues. In a piece which celebrates the effectiveness of true to life conversations, asides to the audience seem like an odd choice, although when David Killick comes to do their speech, the fluidity of the transition is seamless. This script’s true power is that it could be telling any story imaginable, as long as it was these five characters telling it, I’d watch happily.
We take these characters into our hearts in just two hours; perhaps because they so closely resemble people we already know and love. They are performed with the same authenticity that the script has; one minute charming, the next problematic. Killick plays Frank, who embodies the older clientele that are the beating heart of pubs like The Anchor. Alex Jarrett as Pearl and Alan Turkington as Shaun, give us the timeless romantic story wherein a customer falls for the barmaid, whilst Daniel Kendrick and Valentine Hanson bring a sobering sadness to the piece. The whole cast weave such a rich tapestry which makes my two hours spent in their company delightful.
For a play to be naturalistic without overindulging in long pauses takes skill. Chris Sonnex’s direction captures the nuances of everyday conversation: the glances, the inside jokes, the subtext, without being painfully obvious. When the whole cast is onstage, we can choose to watch any character and we can follow their specific storyline. The direction paints a picture which depicts a scene with so much depth and intricacy, it truly pulls the whole piece together.
The setting couldn’t be more perfect: a functioning bar for the audience, a pool table and various seats which come with a generous helping of sausage rolls in paper bowls. Zoë Hurwitz’s design has correctly deduced that what an audience would like even more than a story about a pub, is a story in a pub. Although not everyone is sat onstage, the option to do so recognises that this piece is most effective when it is emoting true nostalgia.
We Anchor In Hope is a play which understands exactly what every good pub should be- alive with history and welcoming to weary travellers. It also understands that like so many stories before, it’s often best told over a pint.
We Anchor In Hope is playing the Bunker Theatre until 19 October. For more information and tickets, visit the Bunker Theatre website.