15 January 2018

Drained and delighted by Hanna at Arcola Theatre


Hanna was a word of mouth thing. I was tempted, most things at Arcola tempt me, but Dalston is bit of a trek from home and office and so I would probably have missed this if my eldest son had not shown an interest following favourable comments from a friend of his. Besides, it was on a Monday night and a lot of theatres were closed for the night.

It helped that is was in Studio 2 as that meant a slightly later start time, 8pm, which meant I could get various trains across from Teddington and still have time for some pretty nifty tapas in La Ventana in Dalston Square, the modern development across the road that is still trying to fit in with its Victorian neighbours.

Hanna, I quickly learned, was a one-woman show with just Sophie Khan Levy to entertain us for an hour and a bit as Hanna. Her CV suggests that I may have seen her in Fracked but that would have been a minor role and no bells were rung.

Hanna sat in the chair and told us the story of her marriage and her daughter Ellie. It was frightening like being in a real conversation and I had to work hard not to join in, especially as Sophie worked assiduously to engage us all by holding eye contact and talking directly to us.

The Arcola website gave a big spoiler away, Hanna is not actually Ellie's biological mother, but that did not matter as that was only setting the scene. The real story started then when the two mothers tried to come to grips with what happened to them. The two husbands, in their different ways, were both somewhat unhelpful in this.

The story developed with real tension, real drama of the flashing blue lights variety, and a great deal of in your face real life. I was not sure where it was going, got emotionally drained on the way there, and had to swear a little at the end. It was that good.

 If I had done any research beforehand then I would have been surprised as Sam Potter, the woman with the words, also wrote Mucky Kid which I loved to bits a few years ago. Sam writes brightly about dark things and I love her for it.

I needed a beer after that and luckily the Arcola Bar had some. Towards the end of my pint I had recovered enough to speak to Sophie and to tell her mow much I had enjoyed the show. I hope that Sam and Sophie do well and that I am there to see some of it.

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