Anonymity @ 24:7 Festival
| 08 Aug 2014
Anonymity is the murky tale of two gas fitters trapped in a dingy basement, undertaking a task as dark and foreboding as the cellar itself. As the play progresses it becomes harder to tell who is good and who is bad, who is right and who is wrong and, finally, what it all means. Written by Gareth George, this is a brooding and stylistically-driven piece, quite different from the other works making up the 24:7's programme.
We open on two workmen fitting gas pipes in a chalk-lined basement, each keeping to their respective space. The task seems simple enough, but soon it becomes apparent that this is no ordinary job and that the two men are being paid not only for their handiwork but also for their silence. In the shadows a creeping paranoia grows and before long neither man trusts the other, his employer or, increasingly, himself. Into this mix comes Cleo (Elinor Dixon), an innocent bystander whose backstory is somehow tied in with fate of the two men, and whose entrance has unexpected consequences.
Anonymity is noticeably stylised, the dialogue delivered in quick-fire fashion while actions and outcomes are a hybrid of the credible and the caricatured. The play works well as a two-hander, as the fitters bond and bicker over everything and nothing. However, the narrative starts to lose focus upon the entrance of Cleo: her words and deeds raises questions, but ones that are rather too vague and confusing rather than speculative.
A piece like this relies on the actors building atmosphere, which the two principle players successfully do. Both Gareth George as Brendan and Joe Bateman as Al are at ease in their roles – Brendan is played as taut and tense, with a streak of reptilian cunning, while Al is more straightforward and serious, easily irked by his co-conspirator. The directorial decision of Madeleine O'Reilly to have Brendan mark out the room while the audience stream in was a good one, helping to build a mysterious mood from the outset. The music choices add to the intended tension; one might not immediately think of wind chimes when dealing with workers in a building, but somehow it makes sense.
Anonymity has style, and while some of the substance might be lacking it is a solid first play that promises more to come in the future.