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Hanna review at Arcola Theatre, London – ‘a performance of energy and humanity’

Sophie Khan Levy in Hanna at Arcola Theatre, London. Photo: Robert Workman Sophie Khan Levy in Hanna at Arcola Theatre, London. Photo: Robert Workman
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Hanna’s daughter Ellie is not her birth daughter. After a mix-up at the hospital, she returned to the ex-council house that she shares with her mother with the wrong baby. It is three years before she discovers the truth and meets her ‘real’ daughter, named Ayesha, living with the fabulously well-off Razina and her husband David. The two women awkwardly become friends, creating a makeshift and shifting family unit between two houses, until David issues an ultimatum that drives Hanna to make a reckless decision.

As Hanna, Sophie Khan Levy has the warm, approachable air of a children’s television presenter. She sits in a smart chair with a jug of water on the glass table beside her and a thick red rug in front of her. The set is reminiscent of a TV studio, and when Hanna begins to address the audience, the tone she initially strikes evokes a breakfast talk show.

Though sparky and well-intentioned, Sam Potter’s play is scaffolded with anodyne platitudes and cliches, seemingly in an effort to capture a working class voice. The narrative is creaky, with a major character largely absent from the story until his single villainous appearance, and the denouement winds up falling flat.

Despite this, director George Turvey keeps things taut and Khan Levy does an outstanding job. Her delivery makes the writing feel fresh and she elevates a clunky play with a performance notable for its energy and humanity.

Verdict
A well-intentioned but clunky play about the meaning of motherhood and family
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