by Eugene O’Neill.
Donmar Warehouse 41 Earlham Street WC2H 9LX To 8 October 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mats Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 1 Oct 2.30pm (+ Touch Tour 1.30pm).
Captioned 3 Oct.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 0870 060 6624 .
Review: Carole Woddis 13 August.
A production to provoke superlatives.
It’s hard to resist the superlatives. One production after another rolls off the Donmar assembly line yet each one bears a special luminosity about it. So it was with Luise Miller, and so it is with Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie (1921), one of his earliest Broadway-produced plays, a fact that broke the heart of the first champion of O’Neill’s work, Provincetown Theatre Company founder, George Jig Cook.
(PTC also spawned playwriting genius Susan Glaspell, now all but overlooked, though she like O’Neilll was a Pulitzer prize winner.)
Provincetown hugs the Atlantic coast at the tip of Cape Cod. Anna Christie, saturated in the storms and vicissitudes of sea-driven life (as well as Catholicism) is very much a reflection of O’Neill’s own personal experiences.
A melodramatic three-hander of guilt and redemption, it still packs a terrific emotional punch, particularly in the confines of the Donmar whose intimacy director Rob Ashford exploits and triumphantly transcends with the help of designer Paul Wills, evoking a wonderful sense of the hard-bitten Boston seaboard of the early 20th century.
A few boxes, a stage that rises and falls and a dark, sea-lashed backdrop are all that Ashford requires with lighting designer Howard Harrison and the ever-inventive Adam Cork to build an atmosphere of irresistible tension broken only by the unfortunate placing of the interval at its highest arc – the confrontation between David Hayman’s weasel-like Swedish coal barge captain, Chris Christopherson and Jude Law’s muscular, very stage `oirish’ but wholly mesmerising Mat Burke, literally `birthed’ into Anna’s life in the great storm conjured by Ashford. He appears wet and gleaming through a porthole via two gigantic ropes, in an unforgettable coup de theatre.
Ashford’s production shimmers with echoes of other demons, from Herman Melville’s Ahab to J M Synge’s Playboy as the two men battle for the soul of Ruth Wilson’s Anna, a `fallen woman’ who has resorted to prostitution for survival.
O’Neill’s greatness is to show male chauvinism in full spate in the men’s response to Anna, the coolest, least self-deluding character on stage. Ashford’s entire cast do O’Neill and Anna proud.
Johnny The Priest: Paul Brightwell.
First Longshoreman: Michael Walters.
Second Longshoreman: Matt Wilman.
Postman: Robert Lonsdale.
Larry: Henry Pettigrew.
Chris Christopherson: David Hayman.
Marthy Owen: Jenny Galloway.
Anna Christopherson: Ruth Wilson.
Mat Burke: Jude Law.
Director: Rob Ashford.
Designer: Paul Wills.
Lighting: Howard Harrison.
Sound/Composer: Adam Cork.
Dialect coach: Penny Dyer.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Simon Evans.
First performance of this production at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre, London on 4 August 2011.