Venue: Kings Cross Theatre (Kings Cross NSW), Jul 15 – 30, 2022
Playwright: Martin Crimp
Director: Saro Lusty-Cavallari
Cast: Lucy Burke, Bridget Haberecht, Lucinda Howes, Josephine Lee, Ebony Tucker
Images by Clare Hawley
Anne never appears to tell her own story. In Martin Crimp’s Attempts on Her Life, we are presented with “17 scenarios for the theatre” that try to nail down the enigmatic Anne. 5 women actors and a television screen, take on various performative configurations, as though in search of an answer to a mystery pertaining to the idea of an elusive person, but is in actuality finding ways to understand the nature of media in 1997, when the play was first produced.
It is the exploration of form over content that makes Crimp’s writing seem wild and incoherent, and even though Saro Lusty-Cavallari’s direction emanates considerable earnestness, for that spirit of theatrical experimentation, there is insufficient playfulness, and a lack of danger that makes the show feel somewhat staid. Attempts on Her Life wants to take us somewhere chaotic, even anarchic, but it all feels overly measured and deliberate. Video features prominently, and Lusty-Cavallari’s work in that arena is admirably precise, incorporating a sense of technical proficiency for the medium, to provides unexpected polish to the experience.
Set and costumes by Rita Naidu, while not particularly imaginative, prove to be highly functional, for a play that constantly evolves its mode of staging. Lights by Sam Read contribute a good degree of dynamism, that moderates effectively the vacillating dramatic intensity, as we move from one vastly different scene to another. The cast is well-rehearsed and energetic, with a cohesiveness that allows them to project with great confidence.
The world has changed so much in the 25 years since the initial appearance of Attempts on Her Life. Gatekeepers determined which stories were being told, and the ways in which they were told. Although the matter of authorship is still a contentious one, we are now more able to have people tell their own stories, and therefore we find ourselves more able to hear directly from the horse’s mouth. If Anne is still around today, she will have every opportunity to say her piece if she wants to, and if she chooses to keep away from the limelight, we will just have to leave her be.