Anna K (Malthouse Theatre) - 90 minutes
By their very nature, human relationships are often messy. The vast majority don’t hit the headlines, but public figures are considered “fair game”.
So, it is that 44-year-old television anchor Anna Kay (Caroline Craig) starts trending and is “slut shamed” when she takes up with 27-year-old SAS soldier Lexie (Callan Colley).
Their relationship began after she interviewed the whistleblower, who witnessed abhorrent behaviour from his superiors in Afghanistan.
Photos by Pia Johnson
Anna subsequently walked out on her surgeon husband Jonathon and their 10-year-old son, Harry (both of whom are referenced frequently, but we don’t see).
Anna maintains she has never felt the kind of love she has for Lexie.
Lexie reciprocates Anna’s feelings, having broken up with his fiancé to be with her.
Anna and Lexie want to be free to pursue their relationship without scrutiny, but that isn’t going to happen.
After a short interlude, during which they greatly enjoy each other’s company, Anna is due back at work the following day.
She is preparing to break a big and important story when social media goes haywire, exposing Anna’s “dirty secret”.
The pair is holed up in a hotel room, which all but becomes a prison for Anna over the next few days.
The media is camped outside, trying to catch a glimpse of “the scarlet woman”.
Husband Jonathon is viewed as the aggrieved party and son Harry isn’t returning Anna’s calls.
While Anna and Lexie maintain they have done nothing wrong, that’s not how the world around them sees it.
By far the harshest judgment is being passed on Anna, who is having a major meltdown.
The consequences of the choice she has made, both for her mental health and her career are momentous.
Anna K has been thoughtfully conceived and written by Suzie Miller. It is well directed by Carissa Licciardello.
The tension – which is ratcheted up as the screws are tightened – is palpable throughout, with the focus primarily on Anna razor-sharp.
Caroline Craig is outstanding as the defiant centrepiece who becomes a nervous wreck. She is adept at displaying the range of emotions that come with the territory.
Callan Colley impresses too with a measured performance as Anna’s more naïve lover, who has a revelation of his own to share.
Louisa Mignone is adept at handling several roles. They include Anna’s sister-in-law and a fellow journalist (and friend) trying to “talk sense” to Anna, and a young reporter Anna has mentored.
The large, sprawling hotel room setting is a feature of the production.
Designed by Anna Cordingley, outside the drawn curtains is an evocative, glowing pink neon sign, the epithet on which is striking.
The three words sum up the opprobrium Anna cops for the position she has taken.
The striking lighting – the work of Paul Jackson – also plays a vital role in proceedings.
Anna K is inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, first published in 1878.
But unlike Tolstoy, writer Carissa Licciardello was interested in a feminist interrogation, which she skillfully navigates.
She turns the spotlight on passionate expression as a force for destruction, being her response to gendered societal shaming.
Just how far have we moved in acceptance of a woman’s right to choose – to plot a path that she believes is true to herself?
You be the judge after seeing Anna K, which is a searing reflection of the modern world, writ large.
The conviction behind it is compelling, as is the piece itself.
It is playing at Merlyn Theatre at Malthouse Theatre until 4th September, 2022.