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Review: The Secret of Anabelle Veritas
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The Secret of Anabelle Veritas
Since I saw Julian Wickham’s debut Playing with Fire in January, he’s been hard at work on not just one, but two plays. And all the while, his theatre school (the only English-speaking one in Barcelona) continues to grow. This time round, there’s a larger cast, and a larger team including costume designers and stage hands. I was looking around at the improvements, and before the lights dimmed, I sat in my seat and patiently waited with high expectations.
The Secret of Anabelle Veritas is based on Oscar Wilde’s A Picture of Dorian Grey, and is a compelling adaptation of the Gothic tale, in which Anabelle (or Oscar’s Dorian), who has recently inherited a large amount of money, is welcomed into the London social scene of the Eighties. Mesmerised by her breath-taking beauty, popular photographer Spencer Barnes (executed superbly by Mike Spillman), takes a photograph of her. As the result of a curse that Anabelle wishes upon herself, her soul is locked in the photograph via supernatural forces, and while her eternal youth is the envy of her friends, the photograph holds Anabelle’s darkest secret.
The cast of The Secret of Anabelle Veritas was a set of new faces. After the somewhat school play-like acting in Wickham’s previous play, I was anxious to see some new performers and to be 'wowed', in his darker, more nitty-gritty play. Alas, it’s easy to forget that Wickham faces the challenge of nurturing many young students who are either new to acting, or are not actors by nature. But, I have to say, there were some basics that frustrated me, such as actors not speaking clearly and audibly, and the irritating lack of understanding that being angry doesn’t necessarily mean you have to scream and shout out your lines. Less is more.
The principal actress, Rebecca Milner, single-handedly held the play together. Not only did she annunciate well; she was sharp, witty, and subtle. The way in which she transformed her character, Anabelle Veritas, from innocence into her life of debauchery and wickedness, was utterly convincing.
The play explores the moral difference between right and wrong, as the audience is witness to the dark forces that pervert youth and innocence. However, on the ‘wrong’ side of the spectrum, it all got a little bit too disturbing for my liking. Anabelle and her dodgy new friends end up in a taboo bar somewhere in London. It’s hard to imagine the scene, but there were red lights, a trio in black mesh costumes and golden masks dancing at the back of the stage, and a half-naked boy pouring ice over himself (who later ends up engaged to Anabelle). It was all very odd. Then there was suicide, murder, fistfights and cat fights; it was edgy. Even some of the script had me on the edge of my seat. Some of it was a little unnecessarily politically incorrect.
There’s no doubt that Wickham’s drama school is developing, and quickly at that. He’s ambitious, and a lot can be said for the amount this guy has on his plate. He’s not just writing, but he’s directing and producing. After three months of hard work, there are a few things which need polishing, but I suppose Wickham pulled it off once again. There’s one thing which still has me puzzled. How did he master the ageing of the photograph, which is revealed to us at the finale?