Review: Anna Bella Eema, Arcola Theatre

The strange but spellbinding Anna Bella Eema makes for an intriguing trip to the Arcola Theatre

“Outside is a state of mind”

A queer little thing indeed, this. Described as a “part ghost story, part fairytale, part coming-of-age fantasy”, that still doesn’t come anywhere close to encapsulating the experience of Lisa D’Amour’s striking play Anna Bella Eema.

Music melds into mellifluous prose, sound effects slide into strange speech, Jessica Lazar’s production builds up an eerily compelling soundscape through Chris Sidorfsky’s original freeform score and Tom Foskett–Barnes’ sound design and from there, locates its entirely individual place in the world.

That place is nominally trailer park America, where 10 year old Annabella and her reclusive mother Irene are hunkered down, even as demolition trucks knock at the door. Out of desperation, she builds a girl from the mud outside and Anna Bella Eema – for that is her name – shows her so much of what is beyond.

D’Amour doesn’t make it easy for her audience. Dream-like passages weave patterns it can be hard to decipher, and the crashes into cold reality prove a shock to the system. But the performances, from Natasha Cottriall, Gabrielle Brooks and a sensational Beverly Rudd, cast a wonderful spell.   

Running time: 100 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Holly Revell
Anna Bella Eema is booking at the Arcola Theatre until 12th October

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