by Laura Kressly
It’s the last night to have a drink at the Anchor before it’s sold to developers who will turn it into luxury flats or a Pret A Manger. Landlord Kenny, his staff and a couple of locals are celebrating the end of an era by drinking the bar dry, but the more they drink, the more their secrets threaten to ruin the good memories of a local community.
Anna Jordan’s story is not just one of gentrification, but the vital role that local pubs play in a society trying to balance tradition and progress. The Anchor has been a lifeline, a place of sanctuary and somewhere to celebrate. The characters share memories of karaoke nights, football wins, and Kenny’s dad, the previous landlord – their reminiscing is initially full of good feeling, but the second half takes a decidedly darker turn. It’s a dramaturgically satisfying surprise when their desperation kicks in, as it shows just how much some people depend on their local for companionship, an escape, or a job, and how rising costs of living and property prices are threatening the entire ecology.
Director Chris Sonnex has placed a working bar on the stage, a snooker table in the middle and on-stage audience seating in mismatched wooden chairs. Designed by Zoe Hurwitz, they have impeccably and impressively captured the look and feel of a local. The five-strong cast, led by Valentine Hanson as Kenny, playfully spark off of each other. Watching them is a delight.
This is a politically and socially astute play with a lot of heart, though it also shows the consequences of an out-of-control property market with unblinking frankness. Jordan’s script demonstrates her mastery of dramatic storytelling and along with a great cast that captures London’s diversity, this production is one of the latest highlights of British new writing.
We Anchor in Hope runs through 19 October in London.
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