A powerful story of a family in crisis
Parenting has been the subject of a number of plays on stage in Wellington this year but few have tackled the subject matter in the way that Emma Kinane’s new play Anahera does.
Well-off parents Liz (Jacqueline Nairn) and Peter (Neill Rea) are distraught, waiting for news of their 10-year-old son Harry who has gone missing.
The police have been called to search for Harry but a social worker, Anahera (Neenah Dekkers-Reihana) has also been called to assist the family as they wait. The opening begins with a great deal of tension and develops into an incredibly powerful and dramatic story that cleverly moves forward in retrospective flashbacks where we meet Harry (Simon Leary), and his sister Imogen (Susie Berry), in later life.
Through innovative and engaging construct, issues arise and situations develop, all too common in many New Zealand families, that need resolution but never really are sorted out. As Anahera says to the parents at one point, ‘‘you just keep sweeping it all under the carpet and it’s getting to be a very lumpy carpet’’.
And central to all this – literally because for most of the play she is standing in the middle of the stage, never moving – is Anahera, which means angel. Around her swirls all the accusations and recriminations of what is behind Harry’s disappearance, as she tries to make the family face up to what is actually going on in their lives.
With not a lot of movement generated from the dialogue, director Katie Wolfe and her cast focus on the dramatic content of the situation which they do brilliantly. The tension is at times palpable as each character squares off with each other with accusations and recriminations.
Nairn is brilliant as the mother Liz, who puts status above her children, regarding them as an impediment to her lifestyle. She is hard, brittle, brutal even in her portrayal of a women so obsessed with herself that nothing else matters. And, as the put-upon husband Peter, Rea is equally as good, not portraying him as the stereotypical Kiwi male but conveying him as having a genuine belief in what he is doing is right.
As daughter Imogen and son Harry dealing with their mother down the line, Berry and Leary bring real depth of feeling and understanding to their roles in the way they each deal differently with the burdens put on them by their parents and how they carry these through life.
Yet the focal point of the play, and around which all the action, takes place is Dekkers-Reihana’s compelling performance as the angel Anahera. Rarely moving from one spot, she is completely immersed and focused in her character trying to make everyone see reason, conveying the heartfelt anguish that so many social workers find themselves in.
A play for today that will resonate with audiences long after they have left the theatre. – Ewen Coleman
In Anahera, Jacqueline Nairn and Neill Rea play the parents of a missing child.