Review: Anglian Mist, Hostry Festival, Norwich

Anglian Mist

Anglian Mist - Credit: Archant

Eve Stebbing reviews an intriguing new play at Norwich's Hostry Festival.

This year the Hostry Festival plays host to a rather intriguing new play from Stuff of Dreams.

Anglian Mist was conceived for the magical desolation of Orford Ness. The piece imagines a Cold War conspiracy that might have played out in those forbidding bunkers. In its first incarnation this summer, small audiences were taken over to the island by boat, and then left stranded as the action took them in its grip.

With the venue such a key player, it is hard for this rather promising production to cast its full spell elsewhere. The last thing you think to do when creating a site-specific work is to describe the place you're performing at. But once on tour, it's a must.

Fortunately, some Anglian Mist does seep in via Tim Lane's atmospheric soundscape (more of this, please.)

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And it's a rollicking good spy yarn, too. Lane co-writes with company founder Cordelia Spence. The pair make a highly-persuasive account of the dark and dangerous lives led by those engaged in East Coast espionage during the late 60s and early 70s. It is based on plenty of research, and would make a fascinating book.

Costumes by Julia Pacoe Hook fit the era like a (leather-look, plastic) glove. I wish I had that red 70s two-piece...

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Which brings me to the glamorous femme fatale, Anna Rees (Adrienne Grant). Hot-footing it from Russia to Orford with days in the story and seconds on stage, she keeps her audience with her at all times. Hers is an unwavering focus, without which the satisfying but complex details of the plot might not be digested.

Matthew Barnes as her son, Valentine, brings in just the right note of pathos as the damaged young man whose life is scarred by his parents' secrets. Russell J Turner as the upright fellow who falls foul of Anna Rees's political ambition could afford to allow himself a bit more in the way of passion during saucier sequences. But his understatement matches the mood of the piece.

Engrossing new theatre, with some delicious twists and turns - a plot to keep the most quick-witted guessing.

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