Named after its lead character, Anna K follows a respected journalist known for exposing the truth, no matter the cost, on her week-nightly 8pm news show.
She soon finds herself becoming the news after it is revealed that she had left her husband and is involved in a relationship with Lexie, a young SAS soldier whom she interviewed about an accident that he observed while on deployment. As Anna K escapes her marriage and spends time with Lexie in a hotel, everything begins to go wrong.
Her husband starts to use their child as a bargaining chip in what is promising to be a dirty divorce, her son doesn’t want to talk to her, and the press are starting to portray her as a home wrecker who has also acted immorally with her work. Worse still, the paparazzi are now camped outside the hotel room desperate to get a shot of her leaving.
Written by Suzie Miller and directed by Carissa Licciardello, Anna K brilliantly presented something to its audience that I have been thinking about for a while now. In 2022, as a society we seem to love to celebrate the role of women in the media but at the same time there are vultures out there just waiting for the smallest slip-up to try and bring them down. Yet if it is a male at the centre of controversy, it is often swept under the carpet.
I found that Miller’s script amazing in bringing this point to the stage. She needs to be congratulated for the fact that she never held back on the topic, and as a result, the audience are taken on an emotional ride as we watch Anna K go from a up-front and strong journalist, to someone that is suddenly falling into a whirlpool of mental illness.
Miller’s script provides the perfect fodder for actress Caroline Craig, who takes a hold of the role of Anna K and brings one of the most amazing performances that we will see on a Melbourne stage this year. I found Craig’s performance to be utterly stunning. She never leaves the stage for the play’s entire 90-minute run-time, taking audiences on an emotional journey where I often found myself feeling heartbroken.
Craig is well-supported by Callan Colley who I can see has a big career ahead of him on both stage and screen. He is a naturalistic style to his acting made him believable and likable as Lexie. His scenes with Craig bleed with romance, drama and the chemistry between them was electric, whether it be a time when they were depicting passion or in the middle of a fight.
Anna Cordingley’s set design also goes a long way to making this show work so well. I’ll admit there was a real ‘wow’ moment as I walked into the theatre and saw the detail of the ‘hotel room’ on the stage. From the bath through to the lobby and sizable room, it was impossible not to imagine that you had just walked into somebody’s hotel room. This went a long way towards helping with the realism of the scenes that were playing out in front of me.
The set also allowed for a neon sign with ‘stupid fucking slut’ in bright bold text disguise itself as an advertising sign outside the hotel room, which becomes important as not only is it something said about Anna K on social media, but it seems to be the title that she most takes to heart. Its position on the stage above Caroline Craig constantly reminds the audience of the burden and torture that Anna K must endure throughout the story.
Anna K is easily one of the best theatre shows that I have seen this year. An amazing set, an intense and dramatic storyline that takes its audience on a poignant journey, and a stunning performance by Caroline Craig, makes this one show one that you simply shouldn’t miss.
Anna K is now playing at Merlyn Theatre, The Malthouse in Melbourne until September 4.
For more information and ticketing on Anna K, visit: https://www.malthousetheatre.com.au/tickets/malthouse-theatre/anna-k
Photography by Pia Johnson.