Anna explores existential depths and doesn’t come up for air

Nightmarish and existentialist human drama Anna is set in Bulgaria and develops against the backdrop of the oppressive 1950-1960's Stalinesque era of state intervention, surveillance and interference. Set where the individual voice is unheard and the system takes over, preventing all freedom of movement and speech – and where, as highlighted in the program, “[t]he whisper and a particular kind of side-darting glance were symptoms of watching or being watched”.

A one-woman-show, Anna is written and performed by award-winning artist Bagryana Popov. She here displays a range of interdisciplinary skills when she alternates between reality and fiction, crossing genres and adding further depth to her Kafkaesque narrative through intercepting fairy-tale elements̶ the tales told almost equally dark and sinister as the real drama played out on stage. Fluent in English and Bulgarian, Popov - a slight woman with a great sense of artistry - alternates between Aussie twang and Bulgarian expressions, adding also linguistic authenticity to her story and effectively transporting us into an era where the shadows become ever darker and the individual is engulfed by the system and the hopelessness of it all.

Going from bad to worse, the play opens on a dark stage with few props, and presents us with a woman whose husband, so we are told, urges her to deposit a substantial sum into her bank account, only to himself later disappear and be removed from the drama while she is left facing the bureaucratic consequences of an action held against her and that drags her into one court case after another. Husband gone and her young daughter gradually also sidelined, Anna - who occasionally breaks out in song heavy in nostalgia - is inevitably reduced to a pawn in a larger political game of deceit and betrayal. She is the only one left standing (or, rather, literally, sitting facing a dark desk that serves alternatively storytelling and interrogative purposes). This disturbing yet effective story about a woman scrutinised at all times, driven insane by the system, reminds us of all the real lives out there where people are kept hostage,devoid of face and voice - pawns in a senseless machinery where they are used as readily replaceable tools serving the totalitarian apparatus.

Rating: 5/5


Dates: 17 - 22 December, 2019 Times: Tue (preview): 6:30 pm, Wed (opening): 6:30 pm, Thurs, Fri & Sat: 7:30 pm, Sun: 4 pm

Location: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond Street, Carlton, VIC Cost: Concession: $20.00, Full: $30.00

Duration: 50 minutes approx.

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