Double Feature 1 - Edgar and Annabel

Sam Holcroft
National Theatre Paintframe
(2011)

Edgar and Annabel production photo

The National's experimental Double Feature (more accurately Quadruple) gets off to a storming start with Sam Holcroft's comedy thriller, playing alongside The Swan. This play not only amuses and intrigues, it also has great political resonance.

For this season showcasing talented young writers, two new 160 seat spaces have been created somewhere in the bowels of the building on the South Bank.

Edgar and Annabel takes place in and in front of a box-like kitchen, designed like the sets for all of these plays by Soutra Gilmour.

The opening is unsettling as, under the direction of Lyndsey Turner, Trystan Gravelle and Kirsty Bushell fluff lines, even when visibly reading from their scripts, and act appallingly while portraying a youngish couple cooking and bickering.

Only in the second scene during which they meet their harsh Irish Control Miller, played by Damian O'Hare, does meaning begin to seep through the mystery.

Miss Holcroft has constructed a plot straight from Pinter and has parallels with the last Double Feature play, There is a War. The couple are strangers playing ordinary eco-freaks Edgar and Annabel. This bland kitchen is a cover for a bomb factory.

The country that they occupy is ostensibly England but not as we know it. This is a police state where surveillance is the norm. Things go from bad to worse when a democratic election is derailed after the opposition leader, whom this group of anarchists supports, is arrested, apparently on trumped up charges.

The hour is engrossing and flies by, with succeeding Edgars and Annabels consecutively cracking under the pressure, as their party falls apart and the country heads for dictatorship.

The play's highlight is an explosive Karaoke party that combines comic and sinister to surprising effect.

This playwright has already shown her ability and imagination on several occasions and Edgar and Annabel proves that she is fast blossoming from one to watch into a confirmed talent.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher