Anna Christie, Donmar Warehouse – A masterful and gripping rendition of a classic

5 hearts

In Anna Christie, Eugene O’Neil drew on his own experience as a seaman prior to embarking on his journey as a playwright.  The play attempts a realistic look at the life of the poor immigrants in early 20th century east coast America.  Anna Christie (Ruth Wilson) a twenty-year-old woman arrives in New York from Minnesota to be reunited with her seaman father (David Hayman).  We soon discover that Anna is not the ingénue her father has imagined her to be and when a group of shipwrecked seamen are rescued after five days at sea, one man, Mat Burke (Jude Law) brings a storm into this damaged family’s life.  Falling instantly in love with Anna, Mat forces the young woman to reveal more of her past than she wishes fearing rejection from both men.

Jude Law as Mat Burke and Ruth Wilson as Anna Christopherson.  Courtesy of Donmar Warehouse

Jude Law as Mat Burke and Ruth Wilson as Anna Christopherson. Courtesy of Donmar Warehouse

The Director, Rob Ashford, who is better known for his choreography work, has created a world were an actual storm delivers Law onto the stage dripping wet and half naked mirroring the action on the stage beautifully.  The play could have been written with Law in mind such is his remarkable performance.  Law’s Burke, prances around the deck, showing off his chiselled physique, in an erotically charged role which calls on his ability to show powerful emotions and boyhood needs.  Wilson gives a superb performance as the fallen yet independent and strong heroine, and Hayman, though looking nothing like a Swede, is convincing as the weary seaman and guilty father.  O’Neil’s interest in showing the influence of a distinctive European heritage on the speech and thoughts of early migrants is effective in providing a strong sense of time and place. What could be simply melodramatic is rendered forcefully by a set pared down to bare essentials but a hydraulically swaying stage reminiscent of the sea and the strength of the acting.