Anna X by Joseph Charlton is a fresh, contemporary play set in New York that explores identity and acceptance in the modern age.
Anna, played by Emma Corrin, arrives in the city to start an internship at an ultra-trendy fashion and art magazine. She has ambitions to open her own art gallery.
Other than that, she is a blank canvas, the people she meets to fill in the gaps with their own assumptions. And she lets them.
Ariel, played by Nabhaan Rizwan, is also new in town. He left a mediocre - in tech terms - career in San Francisco to launch an exclusive dating app that has caught the eye of investors and catapulted him into the high life.
He's trying to fit into the affluent, high-flyer lifestyle.
Anna meets Ariel at a nightclub where they have one of those shouty conversations over the loud music which is transcribed - including mishearings - on a screen behind them (more of that later).
A mysterious character
He is fascinated by Anna. She is both mysterious and familiar. Independent, forthright, playful and spontaneous. And beautiful. She's out of his world, and he's out of his.
Anna attracts attention wherever she goes but always seems on the move and difficult to pin down. She understands image and brand and the power of social media and has built a successful, powerful online identity.
She is one of the most interesting female characters I've seen on stage for a very long time.
In fact, I don't think I've ever seen a female character quite like her. She's very determined and inflexible. She does exactly what she wants, but she does it in a way that has Ariel just wanting to spend more time with her.
Hiding behind honesty
Her superpower is her honesty which she, ironically, hides behind. Her secondary superpower is her aloof charm, but it's not about sex.
Yes, she is pretty and magnetic, and men are attracted to her, but she isn't using sex to get what she wants. She exudes effortless confidence that draws people.
And the audience is drawn in, to the point that there was an audible gasp when something about Anna is revealed.
The staging is very simply done in some ways - a backdrop of blocks that make up the huge screen I mentioned earlier on which images appear. Some blocks protrude and are used as steps, seats or a ledge for the characters.
Transported across the city
The images are a powerful and effective tool for transporting the characters to different places as they move around the city in the story.
So you see Anna and Ariel in different clubs, bars and parties or travelling up in a lift of a modern Manhantten skyscraper, in an apartment or hotel room.
It is an intoxicating world, but through Anna and Ariel's very different experiences of it, you see the flaws. Both are playing a game to be part of something, to construct an identity that fits and with what success?
It's a really interesting, refreshing play, and I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
Anna X is at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 4 August and is 80 minutes long without an interval. You can find more details and buy tickets here.
Have you seen Anna X? Would love to know what you thought.
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