'Attempts On Her Life' explores the mix of bigoted fascism and corporate greed, set in a disturbing montage of advertisements, office meetings and news rooms. It attempts to tell the story of the illusive 'Annie', a never-present character constantly changing identity between woman, mother, terrorist or even, car. The juxtaposition of the corporate setting of the characters and the story of 'Annie' they tell, complete with disturbing details, shocks the audience but also echoes the clinicalising of human suffering by media and governments.
Photo Credit: Anoushka Chakrapani
First performed in 1997, 'Attempts On Her Life' felt a strong choice of play to revive within a modern landscape of social media, both giving us live news coverage as content and making us all perform a constructed version of the self. Constant repetition of "she is..." this "no, she is..." that, echoed a media landscape which speaks for and about women rather than giving them agency. Marginalised experiences are clearly debated by those with power and little experience of that marginalisation. Radical gestures and even suicide attempts made by the various identities of 'Annie' were turned into spectacle for consumption and consumerism. These touches created parallels to contemporary media, and were as damning as they were insightful.
The corporate staging, particularly the depersonalising lanyards and ubiquitous water cooler, were a great touch. The digital effects could have been a little more professional, with design more reminiscent of a primary school rather than a theatre production. However, the blue light and flashing images added perfectly to the disorientating atmosphere. The set could have been used to greater effect in suggesting clues to developments in the plot or adding slightly more to the drama, as occasionally the play dragged on too long without further information being fed to the audience.
What impressed me most in 'Attempts On Her Life' was the fantastic cast, who should be praised for playing with humour, office bullishness and emotional devastation in a way that was both three dimensional and disturbing. Anna Brown's portrait of nonchalant detached businesswoman was chilling, Shin Hui Lee's corporate smile was as engaging as it was creepy, and Ted Webster's chameleon switching between characters down to the minor hand gestures and voice changes was impressive, to name just a few of the copious stand outs in this play.
'Attempts On Her Life' felt like a collection of puzzle pieces, not so much fitted as scattered together, making up a disjointed portrait of the modern construction of the self through advertisement, consumerism and ideology. I think anyone who feels the absurdism of the current media landscape or enjoys a good anti-capitalist meme could take something from this play.