A pow­er­ful story of a fam­ily in cri­sis

The Dominion Post - - Culture - Ana­hera, By Emma Ki­nane, Di­rected by Katie Wolfe, Circa Theatre un­til Oc­to­ber 7.

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.

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