Hanna review

Theatre, Drama
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Captivating monologue about a young mum who discovers her daughter isn't hers genetically

This one-woman show by Sam Potter starts with a dramatically rich, emotionally twisty mix-up: what if, without realising it, you raised a child that wasn’t your own? What exactly is the bond between child and mother: blood and genes, or love and care? The nature/nurture debate gets a clean new twist in ‘Hanna’, a well-constructed, absorbing monologue directed by George Turvey.

Hanna is a young mum; she got pregnant by strong-and-silent-type boyfriend Pete just before she was due to start uni. But in the hospital, her baby got mixed up with another. When Pete suspects she’s been unfaithful – their daughter, Ellie, looks too dark in complexion – Hanna agrees to a DNA test, only to discover that she’s not her child, either. When she meets her birth daughter, she finds she’s being raised by a much better off mixed-race couple.

Hanna is a shy, utterly guileless young woman – beautifully played by Sophie Khan Levy with both cheery girl-next-door relatability and a nerviness betrayed in her edge-of-seat posture and twisting, turning hand-gestures. The simple set could be a talk show – house lights up, a table with a water jug and glass – or it could be a counselling session. Throughout, Levy appeals to the audience (lots of ‘isn’t it?’s and ‘you see?’s), inviting us to feel her version of events, but also revealing her uncertainty.

Potter’s play subtly amplifies questions of how much circumstances affect lives and identities by contrasting Hanna’s ‘just normal’ council estate life with a world of smooth, glistening privilege. Hanna is young, working class, and distinctly lacking in emotional and practical support. She’s also got massively less social capital than the other couple: never thought of asking for compensation, no idea how to get a lawyer.

She gets to know the other mother and child – Potter’s writing is finely judged on both Hanna’s unbreakable bond with the little girl she’d raised, and on her connection with the daughter she lost. But woven throughout are hints of the precariousness of this situation, and the tension begins to mount. The lights slowly dim as Hanna becomes increasingly panicked by her own powerlessness.

The text is at times overloaded with superfluous detail, especially towards the end. But there’s a lovely naturalness to the writing, which allows ‘Hanna’ to develop its themes – on the impact of parenting, race, and class – with a light touch. 

By: Holly Williams

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