BWW Review: WE ANCHOR IN HOPE, Bunker Theatre
I go to the Bunker more than any other London theatre, but when stepping into the building this time I hardly recognised it. Still retaining it's open and welcoming atmosphere, the inside has been completely transformed into a traditional working boozer. If you arrive in the hour before the show you can grab a drink on stage. On Tuesday there's a pub quiz and Thursday allows you to show your skills on the karaoke microphone.
Anna Jordan and Chris Sonnex seem like a perfect pairing to bring this story of modern-day gentrification to life. All over London, pubs are closing to make way for luxury flats. In this story, The Anchor - the singular location of the play - prepares to close, but not without going off with a final bang. However, as the booze flows and the singing starts, it becomes clear that there's much more to lose than just a building.
The real strength in this production is in its subtle details. It's a real fly on the wall investigation and because of the meticulous detail of Zoe Hurwitz's design; you feel totally part of the action. As you sit on the stage and drink a pint, the characters occasionally slot themselves next to you; and although you're never interacted with personally, due to the close proximity to the action you feel fully invested in the entire struggle.
From my experience of growing up in these types of pubs, I can assure you the dialogue and performances are totally authentic. Jordan expertly captures the camaraderie created in these settings, and her script falls perfectly into the lips of these fine five actors - all of whom showcase a different type of person. Sonnex draws out brilliant performances from each of them, allowing them to sit and linger in each moment, thus creating many highly watchable moments.
There's some lovely movement direction from Louise Kempton, part of which includes one of the most exciting opening moments of any play I've seen recently. Jess Bernberg's lighting and Emily Legg's sound perfectly coalesce with the overall vision, meaning the play exudes nothing but truth.
The production doesn't shout anything at you, but tactically invites you onto a journey of discovery. By experiencing the last night with these characters, you feel so much of their ecstasy, but also their pain and heartbreak. And when a revelation to do with one of them arrives towards the end, it hits you like a knife.
Photo: Helen Murray