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

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.

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

Production

Production
Anomaly
Venue
Old Red Lion
City
London
Starts
January 8, 2019
Ends
February 2, 2019
Press night
January 10, 2019
Authors
Liv Warden (debut)
Director
Adam Small
Set
Charlotte Dennis
Lighting
Holly Ellis
Sound
Fuzz Guthrie
Stage manager
Cara Weinmann
Cast includes
Natasha Cowley, Katherine Samuelson, Alice Handoll
Producer
Wildchild Productions
Running time
1hr 10mins