Review: Attempts on Her Life
An abstract exploration of identity and modern society at the Corpus Playroom
Martin Crimp’s postmodernist Attempts on Her Life is an abstract piece of theatre, composed of 17 interlinked scenes all centring around the ever-changing figure “Anne”, who is the enigma of all enigmas. At times she is a victim or the “pornographic movie star”, at others she is the “terrorist”, and sometimes – most bizarrely of all – she is not human at all, but a car.
This 90-minute performance, with no singular narrative or structure, is highly ambitious and complex, creating ambiguity and confusion to reflect on how the clamour of society endlessly tries to drown our individuality. Anne’s identity remains frustratingly unclear throughout, and the cast raise numerous questions about not only who she is, but whether that even matters at all, highlighting ominously: “She could be any one of us.”
The ambition behind this performance, then, ought very much to be commended, as to perform a play such as this is no mean feat. However, the play’s purpose unfortunately became very muddled at points here – Attempts on Her Life is very much intended to be disorientating, but with the cast frequently battling for space around the clutter of props and people on the stage, and often talking over each other or stumbling slightly over lines, there were perhaps too many distractions and too few focal points to absorb the audience entirely.
The play itself is unusual in that it leaves much up to the director’s imagination, including the cast size – some choose to perform it with a minimal cast, other performances see over ten people on-stage together. Here, the cast was composed of 6 individuals who were often onstage at the same time and whose roles were endlessly switching, which I feel may have been the reason behind the chaos: the Corpus Playroom stage is very small, and often the very best performances here have exceptionally small casts to match.
Elsewhere here, though, directors Jasmine Charles and Emma Robinson used the freedom offered by the play’s loose script brilliantly. In many performances of Attempts on Her Life, “Anne” herself never appears at all, whereas here she was present in the vast majority of scenes, as played compellingly by Emma Kentridge. This was a fantastic decision, pushing the question of her identity to the forefront throughout and providing a woeful and moving depiction of society’s endless attempts to reduce her to nothing.
Many other delightful surprises followed, too. At one point, three members of the cast (Emma Kentridge, Vita Pearl, Sarah Walton-Smith) burst into song, and during the car commercial which – according to the script – is to be translated simultaneously into any unspecified foreign language, Sofya Boruleva treated us to the most beautiful Russian I’ve ever heard outside of Moscow. The changing colours of the lights to reflect seasonal and tone changes was another lovely touch of attention to detail.
I can’t help but feel that with more rehearsal time and a refining of certain aspects, the rougher edges of this performance might have been ironed out without too much hassle. It’s easy to get lost in a play such as Attempts on Her Life, and so every little detail matters greatly. However, the entire team deserves credit for such an ambitious and multi-faceted performance, and with each show this week I’m sure that some of the more minor issues will be ironed out just fine.
Attempts on Her Life runs from Tuesday 23rd November until Saturday 27th November at 9.30pm at the Corpus Playroom. Tickets are available here.
Feature Image credits: Clara Walter (Publicity Designer)