Emma Kinane’s taut new play explores how physical and emotional trauma can seep down through the generations.
The playwright carefully grafts themes of patriarchy, race, class, gender and identity on to a family drama with chilling effect.
An 11-year-old boy, Harry (Paul Waggott), has run away and a young Maori social worker, Anahera (Acushla-Tara Kupe), has been sent to support his seemingly successful, affluent parents, Liz (Caroline Faber) and Peter (Rupert Wickham). But she senses all is not well behind the family’s veneer of respectability and sets about interrogating the strange dynamic.
The smartly plotted tale stretches out along two timelines – from 10 years in the past and 10 years into the future. It keeps the reveals coming and perspectives shifting, while delivering gut-wrenching emotional blows.
The cast navigates these choppy waters with ease, slipping effortlessly back and forth between moments of emotional fracture and impermeable authority. Kupe is believable and vulnerable as Anahera, while Faber is often disturbingly disconnected as mum Liz.
Alice Kornitzer’s production sometimes struggles in the Finborough’s small space. Her direction successfully delivers sucker-punches, but some fussy choices allow the tension to seep away. Emily Bestow’s sleek set perfectly captures the interior design choices of a generically successful power couple, while Gregory Jordan’s lighting cleverly cues timeframes, throwing bright light on the future and drowning the past in a fug of murky green.
Overall, Anahera is a beautifully crafted and powerful play that serves up its troubling themes with even-handedness and painful clarity.