Review: Anna Christie
4/5 Donmar Warehouse Covent Garden
All eyes were on Jude Law as the actor returned to the stage to star in the Donmar Warehouse production of Anna Christie.
The play is about an ex-prostitute who confronts her past by meeting the father that deserted her to go to sea when she was a child. A decision to stay with him on his coal barge on the sea after meeting with him in a bar fifteen years down the line leads her to meet a man who she wants to marry and wants to marry her. The rest of the play is devoted to her struggle to admit her past to him and her father- and the reaction that ensues. Law stars as the love interest, Irishman Mat Burke alongside Ruth Wilson as Anna and David Hayman as Anna’s father Chris Christopherson.
Anna Christie won playwright Eugene O’Neill a Pulitzer prize in 1921 when it was written. Many attribute this to the fact that O’Neill was one of the first playwrights to give a prostitute character an actual character, and from the minute Wilson steps on stage as Anna she is instantly brought to life in a vivid and fiesty portrayal that doesn’t let up.
Particularly moving is the scene where she meets her Swedish sailor father for the first time. Hayman negotiates the two sides of the father character: the selfish wandering sailor and the doting loving paternal figure, superbly. These multi-faceted characters under Rob Ashford’s direction, are difficult to pin down and suss out, which leaves the audience hooked even though the scenes are long and the main story lay with just three characters.
Law makes an almost cinematic entrance, in a production which is also visually stunning even though it is remarkably simple. His character is played convincingly- at times you forget it’s even him, which, given the hype the production has received is a triumph.
He too does the justice of his character, being all at once a lovable ruffian and a hatable sexist. This carries the long dialogue-filled length of his scenes.
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There are points where Law seems to overact a little and it is a notable aside that his Irish accent needs a bit more work. Still, the chemistry of Law and Wilson, on which the story relies, is undeniable; from the first awkward meeting you are rooting for them from the bottom of your heart.
From start to finish, the story of Anna’s multiple desertions and dissapointments from the opposite sex which culminate in the ultimate test of her husband to be is told beautifully. The at times raw script is celebrated in a very raw way, with no excuses.