Anna Christie 27th Aug.’11

london west end

So this is going to be a short one, I think.

First of all – Jude Law is in it. And for the first 10 or so minutes he’s shirtless and wet and proves that if you have a lot of time, you can chisel your body like a statue. Yes, he looks that good even with a hideous beard that covers more than half his face – but that is easily compensated with  a lot of eye rolling and grimacing.

Second: Ruth Wilson is in it. She was the femme fatale in “Luther” and she’s even better on stage. The way she effortlessly changes her personality from the truth to her father’s perception of her is truly awe inspiring.

Third: The play – it is – even tho written bei Eugene O’Neill and awarded with a Pulitzer prize and we are all in awe already – a clunker. The two huge metaphorical elephants in the room nowadays are merely mice at best and that makes it hard to even “get” the tragical events that ensue. So Anna was a prostitute to get by. In Austria a prostitute just wrote a bestseller and married a surgeon. There’s no reason why the father should be eaten by guilt and the would be husband repulsed only to come back two days later to grovel at her feet. And a propos grovelling: everything that goes wrong – the father always blames it on “the old devil sea” – and after a while even the very friendly audience of the Donmar only laughs at his accusation.

There is a moment in the play where I was hoping for a turn-around – the father brings a gun from his last drinking binge. Anna takes it and threatens Mat with it. And then the revolver falls to the ground and lies there, a third metaphorical elephant, plainly visible for everyone, an ominous black thing on an otherwise almost empty stage and we wait… and wait… they both enrolled on the same ship… and wait…

… and then there are the bows and my wonderfully theatre crazy neighbour muttered: I waited for the shooting!!!

Me, too!

Both the father and Mat use heavy accents during the play – I have no idea if that was O’Neill’s idea or this directors, but it made understanding Chris Christopherson rather hard at first . They peter off after Law’s Mat is introduced into the mix, though. The play itself was written in 1921 and centered around the father at first, was even called Chris in the tryouts, until it was introduced on Broadway in ’23 under Anna Christie and with the new focus on prostitute Anna. It might have been an eye opener then, it’s outdated and thematically irrelevant now (even more so when compared to  the Donmar’s last producton, Luise Miller, Schiller’s 1784 written play about corruption and the impossibility of love). That said: the actors are outstanding – even though sometimes hamming it up (yes, Jude, I’m talking to you) – and try their best – alas they have to fail because of the play’s content. I really loved Ruth Wilson – she was brilliant. Even in comparison to an icon – Greta Garbo, who played the part in the ’31 movie adaption – which was the first speaking part for the great Garbo.

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