Bunker Theatre – until 19 October 2019
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
The Bunker has been transformed into The Anchor, with working bar, pool table and dubious carpeting (that will hopefully get stickier and stickier throughout the run for added authenticity) for Anna Jordan’s enthralling new play. The Anchor has been sold and the regulars are running a book on what will be built on the site as Pimlico is gentrified.
On the pub’s last day of trading, after a big party the night before, most of the taps have run dry and only a couple of regulars are in. The Anchor means different things to each of them, but it is their anchor in the uncertain post-Brexit summer of 2016. Pearl (Alex Jarrett) almost grew up in the pub, spending her childhood watching her mother flirt with men, but now taking care of her mum as her mental illness escalates, and Bilbo (Daniel Kendrick) has been taken in off the street after a life in foster care and mental health units. Frank (David Killick) was a friend and rival of landlord Kenny’s father, spending every day in the pub as the world outside gets more and more confusing, and scaffolder Shaun (Alan Turkington), working and drinking in London during the week and returning home to his wife and family on the weekends. Landlord Kenny (Valentine Hanson) is a broken man, losing his wife and his pub in quick succession.
The characters’ monologues are a highlight, as each talk at intervals about memories (or trying to keep hold of them in poor Frank’s case), their bonds with the pub and the regulars, and their life outside the pub. In between there is lots of fantastic comedy and brilliant one-liners. The entire cast give incredible performances, but Daniel Kendrick is heart-breaking as Bilbo, who will have nothing and no-one when the pub closes, nailing the hopelessness and helplessness of the character.
Jordan has written memorable and multi-layered characters that you can’t help but empathise with. The way their secrets are revealed throughout the play feels organic and the sudden mood swings, threats of violence and sudden truces are exactly what you’d expect in an alcohol fuelled emotional situation. The story meanders like any good tale told by a drunk in a pub, with a few dances and songs thrown in, but director Chris Sonnex keeps everything on track with aplomb.
Jordan’s play is a moving story, told masterfully – a theatrical wake for lost community, lost love and lost lives – and like the most memorable wakes veers between laughter and silliness, anger and regret and quiet moments of reflection.