Attempts on her Life

Tue 21st – Fri 24th August 2012


Jenni Reid

at 21:44 on 22nd Aug 2012



This review must start with a disclaimer: as much as I tried, I simply did not ‘get’ 'Attempts on Her Life'. That is not to say that it is a bad production, nor a bad play. Indeed, the cast were clearly extremely talented, and generated intrigue and an electrified atmosphere. Unfortunately, my sheer bafflement meant that there was a limit to how much I could enjoy this otherwise very good show.

Some research after the show informs me that Martin Crimp, the playwright, has written the lines but does not specify which characters deliver them or how many people are on stage at any given time. This knowledge makes UWE Drama Society’s production even more impressive, since it was so inventively and strikingly staged. The actors were extremely sharp on their lines, managing the difficult task of talking over the top of one another in wordy group scenes. There were occasional falters in speech, but this was understandable given the sheer amount of text being reeled off in quick-fire succession.

A series of phone messages left for the mysterious Anne are played to the audience as we enter the theatre. We hear casual messages from friends and family, some with undertones of worry or disparagement; then all of a sudden an explicit and menacing threat. If it seems we are beginning to gain a sense of the elusiveness of Anne here, it is nothing compared to what follows. Nothing in this show is concrete or clear-cut, and the show takes the form of a series of depictions of who or what Anne might be; “What has she done? What didn't she do? Is she a woman or is she the latest automobile craze?” These scenes are greatly contrasting in style and tone, and whilst some are playful and light-hearted, others are incredibly dark and affecting. Every so often a powerful phrase would strike me amidst the chaos. My favourite: “our words, they are just so … inadequate”. This never rings more true than in the midst of our futile search for Anne.

The shows description of itself as “strangely enticing” is spot on. This is not an easy show to sit back and enjoy; it demands something extra of both cast and audience. When these elements come together, the result is very impressive.


Lise McNally

at 23:22 on 22nd Aug 2012



Characteristic of Martin Crimp’s experimental style, the UWE Drama Society’s production of ‘Attempts on Her Life’ is a somewhat baffling experience. The lower rating given in this review is a reflection of the somewhat niche interest which Crimp’s work provides, and is by no means meant to be a criticism levelled at the abilities of the cast or creative team. The result of their labour may be bafflement, but they are rather brilliant in their effort.

‘Attempts on Her Life’ interlocks multiple narratives surrounding someone called Annie. Terrorist, artist, tourist, car - who Annie is remains an unanswered question, and the journey lies in watching the narrators in their attempt to construct her story. Its non-linear construction is not to everyone’s taste - it certainly isn’t to mine - but it is difficult to fault the way this young company has risen to the quite considerable challenge posed by the 1997 script. Since the playwright never dictates how many actors should compose the chorus of speakers, by reducing the number to five this student production has placed a heavy weight upon the shoulders of the cast. Yet they maintain the energy and the pace of the piece with considerable skill. It is a testament to their dramatic and narrative ability that they remain mesmerising and interesting, despite the confusing nature of the plot. Dan Hinchy in particular deserves considerable praise, fashioning a remarkably varied, naturalistic delivery from the exceedingly stylistic material, and Olivia Davidson deploys her considerable stage presence to snatch back any wavering attention lost by Crimp’s experimental piece.

The experience of watching ‘Attempts on Her Life’ is rather like that of living through a half-remembered dream. You will never feel on firm footing with the material for long. That said, if it is a dream, it is a rather beautiful one. The set is as chaotic and creative as the script, and gloriously so. Maps, photographs, and scribbled notes form a collage of fragments, glimpses of a life which is at once nobody's and anybody's. Multimedia is also well used, and the use of voicemail makes for a gripping opening to the play.

If experimental theatre is your thing, then you will be better placed than me to appreciate this adaption of one of Crimp's seminal works. But even if you are unconvinced that this is a type of theatre you enjoy, this free production might be a wonderful way of trying it out. The considerably talented cast will do their best to ease you through, and I think most will enjoy it, even if you aren’t quite sure what it is that has held your attention and piqued your interest for so long.


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