Anna Weiss

David Wurtzel reviews Anna Weiss by Mike Cullen at London E14’s My Space.

By coincidence, on my way to see AnnaWeiss, Mike Cullen’s 1997 play about a teenager who accuses her father of sexual abuse based on her memory of it as recovered through hypnotherapy, I was reading a recent Court of Appeal decision about a trial in which a teenager accused her father of sexual abuse and the defence was that the complainant’s mental illness and therapy had led her to “remember” that she must have been abused when in fact she had not.

Thus fiction dramatises our legal issues. My journey took me to a new venue, The Space, “E14’s local theatre” in a disused Victorian Presbyterian church and to a new production company, KiteHigh, launched in October 2013 and now doing its second show.

The play, only 70 minutes long, steers pretty clear of the law, though the police have become involved. The hypnotherapist, Anna, might get a hard time in a witness box. She lives with the person she is treating and repeatedly tells Lynn that all men look at all women in the same way, “as a hole to fill”. Towards the end she begins spontaneously to recover memories of her own, in a scene reminiscent of The Crucible which was still playing at the time. She makes it clear to the father that his job is to accept whatever his daughter says and to ask for her forgiveness, but not to question her belief. Since he says it all never happened, and as he has now lost his job and his wife and the neighbours throw bricks through his window, he doesn’t quite go along with this. The result is explosive (this is very physical theatre done in a very small space and I merely note that I was hit by a prop that had been sent flying). The truth remains ambiguous as dramatically it should. It ends where it began, with the women as two rather lost souls with no closure and a personal history which has taken over their lives.

The cast (Sandra Paternostra, Chloe Walshe just out of LAMDA and Charlie Haskins) are terrific and the director and Founder of KiteHigh, Abigail Pickard Price, keeps a wordy play tense. One looks forward to hearing more about all of them and hopes that The Space takes its place amongst London’s growing number of out of the way fringe theatres doing interesting plays.

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David Wurtzel

David practised at the criminal Bar for 27 years and is a door tenant at 18 Red Lion Court. Prior to his retirement, he was a consultant in the CPD department at City Law School and consultant editor of Counsel. David is a member of the Counsel Editorial Board.