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THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE

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1040 Abroad

Anna X

By Joseph Charlton
Harold Pinter Theatre, Panton St, London WC2, until 4 August
Reviewed by Jarlath O'Connell
Published on July 18, 2021
www.haroldpintertheatre.co.uk/anna-x

Anna X Emma Corrin (Anna) and Nabhaan-Rizwan (Ariel)PHOTO: HELEN MURRAY

This is the third in producer Sonia Friedman's Re-Emerge season of new plays at the Pinter. A two-hander, it features two bright emerging stars: Emma Corrin who has just been Emmy nominated for her Princess Diana in Netflix's The Crown and Nabhaan Rizwan, who made such a splash in BBC's The Informer.

It's about Anna, a socialite scammer in the New York art world who rips off, Ariel, a Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur and is inspired by the recent case of the convicted 'fake heiress' Anna Sorokin, who is also now the subject of two forthcoming HBO and Netflix series. So, all very zeitgeisty.

Charlton's new play is remarkable in its own terms and is given a frenetic, cocky and uber-cool production here by director Daniel Raggett. Its 80 minutes bursts with ideas and it probably won't be long before it too ends up on the big screen.

Anna arrives in New York, claiming to be the daughter of a Russian millionaire and determined to forge a reputation as an art collector by creating a new foundation. At an "immersive nightclub experience in Governor's Island" she hooks up with Ariel. Totally adept at Instagram and "making influence out of nothing" she's soon got him enraptured. He's making millions from an 'aspirational' new dating app for the Beautiful People. It's invitation only, iPhone only, and Instagram following a must.

Corrin brilliantly captures the iciness at Anna's core and how she elides time wasting emotion. She quickly gets the measure of this vacuous subculture and can source a weak spot in seconds. Ariel, a self-made man, is no pushover however, and while a $19k hotel tab he gets casually lumbered with might be tip money for some, a late-night call begging for $900k for a lease on a gallery loft space, because she's having "cash flow problems", does make him think twice.

Rizwan's Ariel perfectly strikes the balance between the cocky entrepreneur and the endearing boyish romantic. Intrigued by her dismissal of normal conversation or backstory, he doesn't really get her till the end. "I miss you" he sighs. "You miss the idea of me" she replies. "But isn't that the concept of love?" he asks.

Charlton charts a well-worn dramatic path here - how do we ever really know anyone? - but what's totally fresh is the way he examines how the duplicities of social media take everyone onto a whole new plateau of self-invention: "You take your phone, and you begin your new beginning". It's a play for our time.

Apart from Charlton's zinging dialogue, much of it texts, the genius of this production is Mikaela Likata and Tal Yarden's stunning video design. It's not an add-on, it's immersive, and therefore intrinsic to the piece. A large videowall with 3D elements plunges us all headlong into stunning New York vistas or fast-moving glass elevators or night club dysphoria, all enhanced by Mike Winship's great sound design.

Here, production, actors and script blend into a seamless concoction that will make you think and make you shudder.

Anna-X Emma Corrin as the eponymous Anna X at the Harold Pinter Theatre. PHOTO: HELEN MURRAY

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