Audacious, enjoyable bilingual co-production from Scottish and Québécois companies
The eponymous heroine of this enjoyable co-production between Scotland’s Stellar Quines and Québécois company Imago Théâtre is one of those everlasting figures present throughout history, a cross between Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Dr Who, whom we first encounter as a baby on the Isle of Skye around 1300AD. At crucial turning points in her life ANA splits herself, moving on to her next incarnation: Joan of Arc, for instance, or Anna Freud, mother of child psychology, or a famous courtesan in revolutionary France, enjoying a ringside seat at momentous historical events.
This audacious floorshow, written by playwrights from either side of the Atlantic, Clare Duffy and Pierre Yves Lemieux, and performed in French and English, squeezes several centuries of history into 90 minutes, touching on questions of politics, science and religion with the issue of the role of women in an ever-changing world playfully probed throughout. While episodic in nature, the production benefits from strong, unifying design features, most strikingly the vivid scarlet motif in Megan Baker’s costumes as well as Philip Pinsky’s atmospheric score and lighting and video effects by Martin Labrecque and Gabriel Coutu-Dumont.
The ensemble cast, too, works very effectively across multiple roles, with Catherine Bégin particularly moving as a vagrant former artist in the play’s final scene. But, despite the intermittent appearances of Alain Goulem’s narrator-ringmaster to provide recaps and tie all the strands together, the play’s disjointed structure and fluctuating tone do eventually start to tell. The second half in particular feels very rushed with some of the ANAs making far too brief an appearance for us to fully appreciate their significance and stretching the ambitious premise a little too thinly.
ANA is touring throughout Scotland until Sat 24 March.