Theatre Review: ANNA X – The Lowry, Salford

Emma Corrin (Anna) & Nabhaan Rizwan (Ariel) in ANNA X. P

Emma Corrin (Anna) & Nabhaan Rizwan (Ariel) in ANNA X. Photo Credit: Helen Murray

Drama, music and video combine to make ANNA X a frenetic, fun and ultra-cool ride

4 out of 5 stars

Following its critically acclaimed run at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End, Joseph Charlton’s new play ANNA X heads to Salford’s The Lowry for a week-long run – the play’s only run outside of the capital.

Inspired by the true story of the Russian fraudster, Anna Sorokin, who spent her mid-twenties duping New York’s art world into believing that she was a German heiress, ANNA X follows Anna (Emma Corrin), who sets out to con Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur, Ariel (Nabhaan Rizwan), into falling for her and then funding her non-existent art foundation.

Emma Corrin (Anna) & Nabhaan Rizwan (Ariel) in ANNA X.

Emma Corrin (Anna) in ANNA X. Photo Credit: Helen Murray

As searing light fills the theatre and an electro-dance beat blasts through the speakers, it quickly becomes apparent that this is no ordinary production. Charging the action forward with the same pulse as Anna’s frenetic life, Daniel Raggett thrills with his direction, making good use of Charlton’s witty and intelligent script by contrasting high energy scenes with moments of quiet as the exhilarating story unfolds backwards and forwards.

Mikaela Liakata and Tal Yarden’s video design takes centre stage, transforming the set from moving Manhattan skylines to Whatsapp scrolls and blinding whiteouts. Together with Mike Winship’s electro-led score, it feels like a hypnotic, adrenaline-fuelled multimedia dream, as an elite world of celebrity, money and power plays out before us.

As the only two actors onstage, Emma Corrin and Nabhaan Rizwan give excellent performances as Anna and Ariel, respectively. Corrin’s cold, compelling charisma, with bursts of deadpan, dark humour is a joy to watch and deliciously contrasts against Rizwan’s lovably gullible and innocent Ariel. Their performances are full of nuance, and their chemistry on stage is palpable.

Emma Corrin (Anna) & Nabhaan Rizwan (Ariel) in ANNA X.

Emma Corrin (Anna) & Nabhaan Rizwan (Ariel) in ANNA X. Photo Credit: Helen Murray

At times, bigger themes push through the narrative, the fickle world of social media and the alarming truth of entrepreneurship and fraud, serving almost as a warning. Yet, while ANNA X certainly circles a gripping premise, the tension expected of such a remarkable story never really materialises, and despite the stripped-back final scene, we never really get beneath the iciness of Anna’s character.

Still, whatever edge the script lacks, the production more than makes up for in its ambition, originality and execution. Strap yourself in for a frenetic, fun and ultra-cool ride.

ANNA X runs at The Lowry, Salford until 14 August 2021