BWW Review: HANNA, Arcola Theatre
It's the worst case of bad luck: at a hospital two newborns are accidentally swapped, resulting in them each being given to parents who aren't biologically theirs. Hanna has raised Ellie for three years, loving her unconditionally. Being a mum is the only thing she is brilliant at, but when a DNA test reveals the startling news that Ellie isn't hers, she is forced to confront what being a parent actually means. Papatango premiere this new play at the Arcola Theatre.
It's unclear where Hanna is when she tells the story. It could be an interview studio, a confessional booth, or an interrogation room. In your head you flit between the three; whatever it is, it's unnerving to say the least. The tone of the piece jumps about; one minute it's lighthearted, the next it's depressing.
Sophie Khan Levy gives a phenomenal performance. She has a natural ability to appear at ease on stage, and delivers the text with a beautiful authenticity. Hanging on her every word, for 70 minutes she holds the entire audience's attention. With her we laugh, exclaim shock, and feel deeply moved by her character's experience.
You never know where the narrative is going to go next, and Sam Potter is to be commended for constantly keeping the audience on their toes. Her unpredictable text encourages curiosity. The tightly woven script explores themes of race, class and identity, and each notion gets unpicked with a high level of delicacy.
George Turvey's production demonstrates how powerful words can be. It proves that you don't need an excessive amount of tech to make a piece highly watchable. All that's required is a gripping story and a thrilling performance. Hanna has both, and its prestige quality is consistent throughout.
It's beautifully acted, fantastically directed and best of all, it feels like nothing you've seen before. Bleak and humorous in equal measure, to sit through it is intense, but for all the right reasons.
Hanna at the Arcola Theatre until 20 January
Photo credit: Robert Workman