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Anomaly review at Old Red Lion, London – ‘pacy, perceptive debut play’

Natasha Cowley and Alice Handoll in Anomaly at Old Red Lion, London. Photo: Headshot Toby
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Liv Warden’s punchy debut play shifts its gaze away from the epicentre of the MeToo movement towards the auxiliary victims of abuse: the family members of a high-profile perpetrator caught in a complex tangle of complicity, loyalty and damage control.

Piper, Penny and Polly are three very different sisters facing a media maelstrom after their movie mogul father Philip Preston is arrested on charges of GBH against his long-suffering wife.

Crisply practical Piper (Natasha Cowley) is heir to the family business in London. Middle sister Penny (Katherine Samuelson) is a glamorous actor in LA, besieged by chat show hosts questioning the veracity of her breasts. Meanwhile their estranged younger sister Polly (Alice Handoll) – a troubled gamine with an insouciant energy – has just left rehab, returning to the family home in search of her mother. It’s assumed the latter is recuperating “at Auntie Sue’s”: that nobody does much to actually locate her becomes a narrative stumbling block later on.

The white walls of Charlotte Dennis’ set effectively suggest exposure of different kinds – within the expensive minimalist interiors of the family’s West London pad, the shining artificiality of a studio and the clinical scrutiny of rehab.

The cast are strong, but the sisters never interact face-to-face, so the fraught texture of their bond remains frustratingly unexplored. Instead the story plays out via harried phone calls that morph into confessional memoir, stagey snippets of therapy sessions and glaringly lit interviews. While it indicts the slathering grossness of modern media, the play needs to properly interrogate its serious emotional themes.

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Verdict
Pacy, perceptive debut play about daughters dealing with their famous father’s abuses
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