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The Panopticon

“A striking performance”

There’s great ambition in Jenni Fagan’s adaptation of her acclaimed 2012 novel, about a young woman growing up in the care system, for the National Theatre of Scotland.

A technically complex staging performed by a nine-person ensemble, The Panopticon reflects Fagan’s own experience of growing up in care. Like the central character Anais (Anna Russell-Martin), the author experienced more than 30 care home moves.

Anais ends up in the Panopticon, an old Victorian institution with sinister, decommissioned shackling devices behind its locked doors.

Debbie Hannan’s production features strong performances throughout. Gail Watson, as Anais’ coarse dominatrix adoptive auntie, and Paul Tinto, as an emotionally over-invested care worker, are particularly good. But it’s Russell-Martin, on stage for the whole production, who holds this complex character piece together.

She brings a fierce non-conformity and a vibrant intellectual curiosity to Anais as the 15-year-old character comes of age. Anais endures punishing emotional and physical suffering, including the suicide of friends and a grim episode of sexual violence. She develops the paranoid fantasy/coping mechanism that she’s being watched all the time by a mysterious force known as ‘the experiment’ (represented by Lewis den Hertog’s sinister video projections).

Designer Max Johns’ versatile set – an arc of nine revolving, two-tier cells – reinforces this feeling of being viewed at all times: a by-product of the care system’s institutional surveillance, and a wider metaphor for the forms of interaction we all submit to now.

If at times the piece feels overstuffed, Russell-Martin’s performance ensures it remains resonant.

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Production Details
Production nameThe Panopticon
VenueTraverse Theatre
StartsOctober 10, 2019
EndsOctober 19, 2019
Running time2hrs 45mins
AuthorJenni Fagan
DirectorDebbie Hannan
Set designerMax Johns
Lighting designerSimon Wilkinson
Sound designerMark Melville
Video designerLewis Den Hertog
CastAnna Russell-Martin, Gail Watson, Kyle Gardiner, Laura Lovemore, Louise Mcmenemy, Paul Tinto
TechnicalLee Davis
Company stage managerCarrie Hutcheon
ProducerNational Theatre of Scotland
VerdictJenni Fagan’s stage adaptation of her novel about life in care features a striking central performance
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David Pollock

David Pollock

David Pollock

David Pollock

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