Anomaly, Old Red Lion Theatre

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By Laura Kressly

Even the most powerful of men can fall when society finally decides their actions are no longer excusable. Unfortunately, women have their lives ruined before these men get what they deserve, and the women closest to them have to clean up the mess. Because the patriarchy is so deeply ingrained, women may even be complicit in the abuse that men perpetuate.

In this story, Phillip Preston is one of the most successful people in Hollywood. As the founder of an international film production company with two of his three daughters following in his footsteps, he feels invincible – and behaves like it.

Set over 24 hours, the Preston daughters tell their stories and try to control the damage their dad causes through monologues, phone calls and press appearances. Piper, the eldest, is coldly corporate. Penny, the middle daughter, is an actor acclaimed for her looks. Polly is the baby of the family who no one likes to talk about. She has no interest in cinema but is very interested in doing coke and behaving badly. There’s great contrast between them, but it’s not enough to save them or this clumsy and starkly composed script.

Piper and Penny are wholly committed to preserving the family name in the face of unrelenting media scrutiny and will seemly stop at nothing to do so. It’s clear that writer Liv Warden is not just attacking misogynistic men, but the misogyny that women internalise that makes them complicit in violence against other women. 

Structurally, the play doesn’t hold up. The format quickly becomes repetitive, and it’s frustrating that the strong personalities on the stage aren’t given much chance to interact with each other. The final few scenes dramatically divert from narrative convention and though the big reveal is a shock, the lead-up to it is disengaging and disingenuous in the world established to far.

The play’s message is commendable and indisputable, but the storytelling tools use too blunt a  force. Though there’s a lot of anger, there’s not enough subtlety to sustain a powerful effect.

Anomaly runs through 2 February.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

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