The third and final production to open in Sonia Friedman’s RE:Emerge Season at The Harold Pinter Theatre is an uber-modern two hander that originally played at VAULT Festival. Loosely based on a true story, Joseph Charton’s Anna X delves in to a world where apps and social networks can make us whoever we want to be.
On one hand there’s Ariel, a millennial that secures millions of dollars of funding for an exclusive dating app without so much as a proof of concept. On the other there’s Anna, an ‘Instagram Celebrity’, in the art world at least, who’s raising money for an art foundation.
Thanks to A-List parties, and well-placed connections, the pair form a relationship, but while they’ve both reinvented themselves in some way, it becomes ever clearer that Anna is not all that she claims to be. The fact that Anna’s deception is so obvious to the audience, but not to Ariel, mirrors the real-life events that unfolded in the life of Anna Sorokin, a fake heiress convicted of attempted grand larceny.
New York City plays as much of a role in this play as the two central characters do, but in this hyper-connected world the story spans continents and shifts between different points in the relationship. Much of the dialogue feels like a WhatsApp exchange, short sharp bursts of conversation that plunge us in to two extraordinary lives, but it’s confidently written and draws the audience deep in to the unfolding events.
The opening scene of Anna X cements this idea early on, as Ariel and Anna dance to a nightclub’s throbbing beats, their inaudible conversation appears, text message style, in projections behind them. Indeed, the entire set is comprised of a video wall, on to which Mikaela Liakata and Tal Yarden’s video design is projected. It’s often frenetic and sometimes overwhelming, but visually impressive, particularly in the final scene, which reminds us of the harsh reality that lies behind that perfectly filtered Instagram post.
Emma Corrin and Nabhaan Rizwan make their West End debuts as Anna and Ariel respectively. Both emit confidence and composure, weaving through this multi-layered narrative with surprising charisma, and sound pacing, under the direction of Daniel Raggett.
Anna X is imbued with subtle nods to the social media age, Charlton’s script highlights the ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ concept, but goes deeper, exploring what can happen when faking it doesn’t pay off. The slick script, assured performances, and imaginative staging make this a fitting end to a revolutionary season of theatre.