Hollywood iconoclast John Malkovich makes his London stage directing debut in fine style with a poignant drama from Zach Helm about drug addiction and genius.
Annie is the beautiful, intelligent but deeply troubled wife of rising literary star Jack, whose latest book has sent shockwaves through the publishing scene. But as Jack is schmoozed by publishers and critics, his wife’s reliance on industrial quantities of speed to get through the day threatens to sabotage their success.
Helm, who has never presented the play in English before (its initial productions were in French and Spanish), inserts a twist that cleverly toys with our initial expectations. And he fires a furious broadside against ingrained misogyny in the creative spheres and beyond; Annie’s childhood abuse is the clear trigger point for her current malaise, while a publisher’s wife is prevented from even moving a sofa by her big shot husband.
Of a fine cast the stand out is Freya Mavor, best known from 'Skins', who plays Annie. You simply can’t take your eyes off her as she skittishly dominates every scene, building to a viscerally shattering climax. It’s perhaps too obvious to draw an analogy with Denise Gough’s stunning portrayal of addiction in 'People, Places and Things', but the comparison is valid.
Harry Lloyd's admirably understated Jack is a likeable if helpless bystander to Annie's whirlpool of self-destruction. And there is strong supporting work including Simon Wilson’s preening but passionate critic and Ilan Goodman’s amusingly neurotic drug dealer.
Malkovich directs with flair and clarity, even if his cinematic influence is all too clear through the piano soundscape and projected sets. But crucially, like many actor-directors, he coaxes the best out of his young leads, who have clearly responded to his full-throttle approach to the craft.
BY: THEO BOSANQUET