Writer: Anna Conomos & Susanna Willetts
Director: Xanthe Gresham
Reviewer: John Roberts
At the heart of an actor/performance should be the ability to simply tell a story, to engage the audience in a way that can transport you to new and wonderful places, sadly in a lot of modern theatre this simply point seems to be wildly overlooked...well all I can say is a huge thank you to Annamation who have managed to restore my faith in theatre and the art of storytelling.
Annamation was set up in 2004 by three actors working together at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, bringing the story of the masterpieces that hang on their walls vividly to life to audiences young and old. Having had huge success, winning several awards including Young Storyteller of the year they are being hailed as the ‘new wave’ of storytellers.
Annamation’s latest production Hags & Heroines stars just two of the company (due to the third having just given birth) and is a real tour-de-force of theatrical delights. Susanna Willetts and Anna Conomos guide us through several stories of infamous Hags & Heroines.
Annamation are masters at performance, finding a suitable balance between direct audience interaction, physical theatre, and the spoken (and sung) word. The production relies on no set - apart from two small sillouette backdrops on a small double levelled stage, no costumes apart from the identical purple suits they both wear and no props, this really is performance laid bare.
Conomos and Willetts both have their strongest points, Conomos perhaps being the most naturally gifted vocal storyteller, who mesmerises with her warm colourful voice, and Willetts who really is one of the strongest physical theatre performers I have ever seen, contorting her body and facial expressions in many hideous ways resulting in much merriment and laughter from the audience.
Their script is littered with many gags and witty one liners – one presumes many of these are improvised on the night depending on the audience they are dealing with. It is also filled with helpful little factoids and tit-bits of information that help you understand the context of some of the stories being told.
Director Xanthe Gresham has ensured that the production never loses pace and often manages to find moments of real raw emotion through the timely use of acapella singing and stunning use of silence to add to the overall atmosphere. The magic of this production lies in its simplicity, performing to a packed out arts centre hall, filled with many adults and children Conomos & Willetts should be congratulated on keeping every single person in the space totally engrossed throughout.
Hags & Heroines is a rare theatrical gem, proving you don’t need big budget production elements or a famous celebrity in your cast to make an evening at the theatre totally captivating and thoroughly entertaining.
For more information on Annamation click here