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Anna Bella Eema – The Arcola Theatre – Review

Arcola Theatre, Atticist Productions and Ellie Keel Productions present the UK Premiere of Anna Bella Eema written by Pulitzer Prize finalist Lisa D’Amour and directed by Jessica Lazar.

This brand new piece is described in the front of the playscript as ‘A ghost story for three bodies with three voices’ – and it’s difficult to describe the show in any other way.

Anna Bella lives in a deserted trailer park with her eccentric mother Irene, one day she steps outside and builds a girl out of mud which comes to life, creating Anna Bella Eema.

The piece could arguably be described as a musical which features a cappella singing. The three lead girls use pitch forks to begin their songs and sing them beautifully without any guidance, something which is extremely impressive to watch. This is definitely a play with songs, but regardless of how the show is labelled it is simply stunning.

Set in Studio 2 in the basement of the beautiful Arcola theatre, as soon as you walk in to the space you enter a world that isn’t entirely human or natural. The set is beautifully simplistic and simultaneously artistic – and the same can also be said for the costumes. 

The three actresses that are named ONE (Beverley Rudd), TWO (Gabrielle Brooks) and THREE (Natasha Cottriall) are absolutely mesmerising. Rudd (ONE) mainly embodies the character of Anna Bella’s mother Irene alongside other characters, and is the perfect combination of hysterical and terrifying. 

Cottriall (THREE) mainly plays Anna Bella Eema – the mud child of Anna Bella – her gaze is so intense throughout the piece and her ability to snap between characters is incredible.

The performance of Gabrielle Brooks (TWO) as various characters but especially as Anna Bella was pure perfection. Her voice was stunning and I believed every moment that she gave us onstage from hilarity to heartbreak. All three of these incredible women gave outstanding performances that enchanted the entire room.

A prominent theme of the show is accepting change, though it also seems important to mention that I belly laughed, had a tear in my eye and came out feeling empowered and moved by the show and those who have created such a masterpiece. I implore everyone to go and watch this beautiful and exciting new piece of theatre, it will be worth every penny and second you spend on it. It is an intimate, touching, comical show that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Go and see for yourself!

Anna Bella Eema is at The Arcola Theatre 11th September – 12th October 2019 and has a running time of 95 minutes with no interval.

Image credit Holly Revell.