views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Anonymous Anonymous
The Space
24th June 2015


Publicity image for Anonymous Anonymous

Photography provided by Tressillian

Me, I'm from a generation which can still remember the painful sound of a 28k modem pitifully trying to connect to the internet. That's how old I am, practically a living fossil. These days, I'm permanently wired to 4G when I'm on the the go, with the internet having become a basic part of daily life rather than a luxury service. In Philip Carter Lindsey's Anonymous Anonymous, we meet five people who aren't just hooked up to the world wide web, but hooked on it. This is a play for modern times.

Five mismatched chairs form a circle in the middle of the room, with The Space becoming either a church hall (see what they did there?) or community centre. Hand-written "inspirational" messages are hastily stuck to the walls and there's an industrial sized coffee urn tucked away in one of the corners. It's all fairly low key, but that's the point. The protagonists don't have any handles or fancy photoshopped avatars to hide behind, here in real life, with all its lack of glamour, they're exposed for who they really are.

Group leader Allison (Kaye Browne) is in charge of deciding who gets to level up with a new badge - basically a bog-standard white sticky label, but in the absence of anything more exciting, they become coveted trinkets to chase after. Mouthy self-professed agony aunt Aaliyah (Tashan Sinclair-Doyle) collects hers on a brown sash, almost how you would merit badges on a Brownies uniform, reinforcing how under all the bravado, she's just a little girl. Newcomer Michael (Michael Jinks) thinks badges will prove to his baby momma that he's cured; other newbie Sam (Kimesha Campell) is more interested in Allison's own story than what advice she can dish out. And lonesome George (Jackson Pentland) is probably too busy with his deep disturbing thoughts to fixate on badges as much as some of his peers.

There are some nice touches to Grace Gummer's direction, such as having the self-help group addicts casually wander in and out of the venue, a short break in which George slowly eats a pasty whilst the others pair off and idly gossip, and a snide provocative remark by Allison under her breath that the entire audience catches. There comes a point where we're not sure whether Allison's intention is to moderate or troll, and this ambiguity is delightfully dark. However, the script tries too hard to flit between humour and tragedy in the first half, and Gummer has little choice other than to follow the playwright's lead, with the result a little uneven. In the bleaker moments though, emotion weighs heavy in the air, and the entire production suddenly feels a lot grittier and more relevant. This is undoubtedly where Carter fares best.

Some of the characters struggle to tell their stories, the words tumbling out of their mouths in a garbled mess. It's intentional - having spent so long hiding behind screens they can't quite recall how to communicate in person properly - but whilst this adds a layer of realism, it can be quite hard to hear everything and we lose some of the meaning. Sam is always quiet, timid and reluctant to be there, but her soft-spoken account is honest and one of the most powerful testimonies. George's comic gushing by contrast is all hashtags and - did he really say what we think we heard him say?

Despite a deliberately slow start, the meeting - and thus the production - comes to an abrupt end. We're left without any answers as to the fate of our merry band of misfits, and Googling for once won't tell us what we want to know. Anonymous Anonymous raises the question of whether our reliance on the internet helps or harms, and whilst it has undoubtedly led to opportunities which wouldn't otherwise exist, you can always get too much of a good thing. Book a ticket online, then turn the computer off. See how long you last...

Anonymous Anonymous opened on 23rd June and runs until 27th June 2015 at The Space.

Nearest tube station: Mudchute (DLR)

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