Director Daniel Raggett talks to Frankly My Dear UK about bringing as Joseph Charlton’s play ANNA X to life on stage
Salford’s The Lowry reopens its 2021 season with a bang next week as Joseph Charlton’s critically acclaimed play ANNA X takes to the stage for a week-long run.
Inspired by the true story of the Russian fraudster, Anna Sorokin/Anna Delvey, who spent her mid-twenties duping New York’s art world into believing that she was a German heiress, ANNA X is the story of a Russian who sets out to con newly flush Manhattan tech entrepreneur, Ariel, into falling for her and then funding her non-existent art foundation.
The play stars Golden Globe winner Emma Corrin, best known for portraying Diana, Princess of Wales, in the Netflix series THE CROWN, in the lead role as Anna, alongside Royal Television Society’s 2019 Breakthrough star Nabhaan Rizwan as Ariel.
Ahead of its run, Director Daniel Raggett talks to Frankly My Dear UK about bringing as Joseph Charlton’s play to life, working with Corrin and Rizwan and bringing ANNA X to The Lowry’s Lyric stage – the only performance outside of the capital.
Frankly My Dear UK (FMD): What can we expect from a night at the theatre with Anna X?
Daniel Raggett (DR): You can expect the unexpected. After the year that we’ve had we wanted to make an event. Something which reminds people how exciting it is to go out together, to the theatre, gigs, nightclubs. It’s kind of a hybrid of all of those – with a great play at the heart of it. ANNA X is essentially a modern love story. Our main characters, Anna and Ariel, both new arrivals in New York City, meet on a night out. Ariel is a tech entrepreneur who has designed a dating app and Anna is taking the art world by storm. They’re both in the ascendancy, driven by a shared aspiration to join the elite world of celebrity, money and power that we’re all accustomed to leering at on our phones. But this naked ambition comes at a price. As their relationship deepens, cracks begin to show – and perhaps not everyone is who they seem. It’s a Talented Mr Ripley for the Instagram age.
FMD: What did you take away from Joseph Charlton’s writing when you first read it?
DR: Joe has a brilliant and totally unique way of seeing the world. He manages to talk about the things that we don’t notice, but which invisibly govern our everyday lives – like technology – in the most incisive, subversive way. When I first read the script it blew me away. It was instantly so original and so arresting. He has a way of writing sparkling, sharp dialogue but also wrestling with huge ideas. It’s so much fun to stage, to act and, I hope, is really watchable!
FMD: How has it been working with Emma Corrin and Nabhaan Rizwan to bring this story to life?
DR: Working with Emma and Nabhaan has been great fun. They’re both incredibly talented, and their reputations preceded them, so I feel very lucky to have them as collaborators. They’ve given so much to the play throughout the process – from way back at the workshop stage – and they continue to deliver every day. They’re both smart and instinctive actors, who bring plenty of ideas to the table. It’s both of their debuts but you wouldn’t know it!
FMD: What have you enjoyed the most about bringing Anna X to the stage?
DR: It sounds like a cliché but the whole experience has been really enjoyable and very humbling. We all felt incredibly lucky to be in a room and to be working on a play after the last year. I guess, after the isolation of lockdown, it was the other people who were the best bit. Getting to collaborate with great artists on making a show and then to welcome people back into the theatre. The world as we knew it changed irrevocably, so there was something really moving about this return to some sort of normality – watching audiences respond to the show and having a really exciting, collective experience was amazing.
FMD: Why should audiences come to see Anna X at The Lowry 11 – 14 August?
DR: Well, first of all, for that shared experience that has been impossible for so long! Aside from that, everyone says that their play is relevant: but if you’re reading this on a screen, or use one regularly (as we all do), then this is a play for you. ANNA X is very much about the world we live in. One that constantly bathes us in images, that encourages us to self-fashion, to curate our lives, to construct our identities every day through our interaction with our devices. If you want to see someone do that to an exceptional level – to literally re-invent themselves, Gatsby-style, to great (if questionable) success – then come and see it. It’s got the heart of a rom-com with the head of a thriller. After a year spent in isolation with our phones, it’s also a bit of a horror story – you can expect a few surprises along the way!
ANNA X runs at The Lowry, Salford from 11 – 14 August 2021.
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.