Iona Ramsay reviews Attempts on Her Life, Sonder Theatre’s final theatre production in St Andrews.
Attempts on her Life by Martin Crimp calls into question our sense of self; dissecting the formation of identity within the context of modern political and technological life. Sonder Theatre’s innovative production, directed by Joanna Bowman, stripped the text back to its flesh, delivering a raw and provocative version of Crimp’s play.
The piece began from the second you entered the space, with an ambiguous voiceover in the background. The voiceover depicted several modes of communication, each adding to the intrigue of the production. As the lights went down, and the audience focused on the stage, we were shocked to find cast members appearing beside us in the seating bank. It remained this way throughout the play, and the effect was completely engaging; the intimacy with the audience transformed the work into an incredibly visceral and interactive experience. What followed was a series of mini sections, with their corresponding titles projected on the walls. The centre of each section was the figure of ‘Anne’: a shapeshifting (not always human) character. The sections were otherwise unconnected on the most part, with their titles ranging from ‘Particle Physics’ to ‘Porno’ (to name just a couple). Each member of the cast had an equally weighted section, and all 14 effortlessly kept in time to the fast-paced, energetic rhythm of the text. A common energy radiated from every actor, and was impressively sustained despite their fixed position.
Many of the sections translate as social commentary, often threaded through with an element of surprise. A prime example of this was the section titled ‘The New Anny’, performed by Shonagh Smith and Benji Osugo. What started as an advertisement for a new car named the ‘Anny’, began to take on hints of Nazism in its language. Both actors switched back and forth in tone with ease, perfectly balancing the subtle and the politically charged. While I felt many of the sections were skilfully produced, the execution of this piece made it a stand-out section for me.
Two sections of play were captured in the fragmented language of poetry, and musically interpreted with Amy Hill’s acoustic guitar and captivating voice. The lyrics were displayed on screen, often exploring themes that run through the play. This musical interjection was a beautiful addition, and added to the immersive style of the performance.
Throughout the play, the stage area was left unoccupied, with the screen used to project several images of the cast members. The object of this was, I’m sure, interpreted in many ways, but it seemed to hint at the multiple “selves” you can be. This concept was an interesting one, but could have perhaps been clearer in its purpose. Despite this, the staging was visually striking, while maintaining a simplicity that drew focus to the performance.
Overall, Joanna Bowman’s directorial choices were excellent; succeeding on every level to excite and shock the audience. The cast was perfectly constructed of unique individuals, capable of coming together in a cohesive style and energy. Although Crimp’s play does not leave the audience with definitive answers, this production raised many questions in its boldness and difference.