Review: Anna Bella Eema at Arcola Theatre

Anna Bella Eema at Arcola Theatre. Picture: Holly Revell.

Anna Bella Eema at Arcola Theatre. Picture: Holly Revell. - Credit: Archant

Jessica Lazar’s one-act piece plunges viewers in to a terrifying and beautiful world of night-time horrors and fairytale fiction.

Anna Bella Eema at Arcola Theatre. Picture: Holly Revell.

Anna Bella Eema at Arcola Theatre. Picture: Holly Revell. - Credit: Archant

This is a play like no other. It takes place deep inside the souls of the characters; their nightmares and dreams, fantasies and terrors, needs and desires.

Little is revealed about the everyday lives and relationships of One, Two and Three, played by Beverly Rudd, Gabrielle Brooks and Natasha Cottriall.

They are mother, daughter, and a girl modelled from mud by Two. The last is every bit as real as the other two.

They live in a derelict and wheel-less trailer in an American trailer park, due for destruction because Highway 20 is being built across the site. Previously, several families - marginalised but surviving - lived there too.

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But now they are there alone. The authorities are failing to cope with them, the bulldozers are approaching but Annabella, her mother and the girl made from mud are staying put, hiding from the horrors of the situation in an imaginary universe of strange, terrifying and often beautiful creatures.

From time to time, they surface into an everyday world, just recognisable as western so-called civilisation.

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Meticulously directed by Jessica Lazar, this one-act piece plunges the audience into a terrifying and beautiful world where childish night time horrors and fairytale fiction combine with myths and legends from numerous cultures.

For such an exotic production to be effective, it has to rely on skillfully crafted sound and Tom Foskett-Barnes has arranged the singing and sound-effects in impressive fashion.

Together with the movement (Jennifer Fletcher), an original and convincing structure supports the extraordinary text.

The acting is superb: energetic and stylistically original, presenting the outlandish characters with absolute conviction.

There are moments of humour and others of affection and comfort. Surprisingly, the play ends on a note of hope: love and care have persisted amid deprivation and chaos.

Two finds the resources in her unconventional upbringing that give her the strength she needs to survive, perhaps even to triumph.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Continues until Saturday, October 12. For more details and tickets, click here.

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