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Steven Berkoff's EAST

2019        Arcola Theatre, London

co-production with Arcola and Ellie Keel Productions

Something is coming. It's either the interstate or the end of the world.

 

As Halloween 2019 crept towards us, Atticist conjured up the UK premiere of award-winning US playwright (and Pulitzer Prize finalist) Lisa D'Amour's wildly inventive spoken-and-sung odyssey, in a new and updated version of the text.

Part ghost story, part fairytale, part coming-of-age fantasy, ANNA BELLA EEMA is a dazzling burst of storytelling from the dark heart of American Gothic.

Precocious ten-year-old Annabella lives in a deserted trailer park. Schooled by her eccentric mother Irene, she learns to co-exist with the vampires, werewolves, and monsters that lurk in the world outside.

 

Desperate to ward off the new highway which threatens their home with demolition, Annabella steps outside to build a girl out of mud. The girl comes to life. The girl is Anna Bella Eema.

A twisted fable about courage, resistance, and change.

Written by Lisa D'Amour with original score by Chris Sidorfsky

The Faber edition of the revised play, first performed in this production, is available to buy here or directly from Atticist.

ONE / Irene Beverly Rudd

TWO / Annabella Gabrielle Brooks

THREE / Anna Bella Eema Natasha Cottriall

Director Jessica Lazar

Musical Director Tom Foskett Barnes

Movement Director Jennifer Fletcher

Stage Manager Catriona McHugh

Assistant Director Amber Sinclair-Case (via King's Head Theatre Trainee Directors Scheme)

Set & Costume Design Anna Lewis

Lighting Design David Doyle

Additional Composition and Sound Design Tom Foskett Barnes

Production Manager John Rowland, Will McLeod

Producers Arcola Theatre, Ellie Keel and Gabrielle Leadbeater for Ellie Keel Productions, Tom Ford for Atticist

Publicist Kate Morley PR

ANNA BELLA EEMA is currently nominated for 3 Off West End Awards 2019 (Best Performance Ensemble - Beverly Rudd, Gabrielle Brooks, Natasha Cottriall; Best Sound Design - Tom Foskett-Barnes; Best Set Design - Anna Lewis). Reviews include:

 

Stagedoor (Lyn Gardner): ‘The spoken simply melts into song, a woman turns into a wolf, a child is made out of mud, the real and the fantastical sit side by side in a weirdly enticing slice of Southern Gothic. ...Jessica Lazar’s production brings real inventiveness to something that might be overly static, and the performances are mightily appealing.’

Exeunt (Ava Wong Davies): 'a startling, unwieldy beast, quivering with barely bridled chaotic energy. Watching it can feel a little like trying to walk a bear on a leash...Jessica Lazar's production has an uncanny, almost alarming clarity to it. There is a propulsive purpose to her direction...Get in, losers, we're going capital-W Weird. Get onboard or you'll be left behind.'

British Theatre Guide (Howard Loxton): ‘Jessica Lazar’s direction creates a magical atmosphere with sound and additional music by Tom Foskett-Barnes...and three splendid performances.'

★★★★★ Theatre-News (Chloe Billington): ‘The Arcola Theatre has a reputation for producing bold new productions with exceptional young creative teams. Anna Bella Eema certainly fulfils expectations... [This] production maintains absolute precision from start to finish with haunting close harmony singing, sharp changes in mood and a final emotional punch.’

★★★★★ At The Theatre (Poppy Jay): ‘extremely impressive to watch...I belly laughed, had a tear in my eye and came out feeling empowered and moved by the show and those who have created such a masterpiece. I implore everyone to go and watch this beautiful and exciting new piece of theatre.’

 

★★★★ Theatre Weekly (Greg Stewart): ‘a strong cast and innovative direction creates a magical and captivating fairy tale that feels like a solitary beacon on the trailer park of London theatre. ...Yes tricky to follow, but it’s also like falling down an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole that you don’t want to climb out of.'

★★★★ A Younger Theatre (Grace Patrick): ‘With the rusted American South slowly decaying in the background, a girl and a mother retreat deeper into their own delusions or imaginations. ...The decision to create sound around noises made by set pieces and props is brilliant. It’s a constant reminder that this world is being built by the people in it, and that it’s whatever they want it to be. Anna Bella Eema doesn’t always feel entirely smooth. It does, however, feel like a heartfelt and compassionate response to a rapidly changing world. It’s tender without being patronising, and that’s worth so much more.

★★★ The Guardian (Michael Billington): ‘Lisa D’Amour’s play is as weird as its title suggests. First seen in Texas in 2001, it is a mixture of ghost story, prose poem and paean to nature. Even if I found much of it impenetrable, I was impressed by Jessica Lazar’s production and the discipline of its performers.'

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