Anna is best known for her role as National Security Advisor Dr. Nancy McNally in American drama series The West Wing, which she worked on between 2000-2006. She went on to receive the award for outstanding solo performer, awarded by the United Solo Theatre Festival board, during the inaugural edition in November 2010. Then in 2012, she was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama who praised her for her ability to “open up minds and nourish souls, and help us understand what it means to be human”.
In her poignant and shocking one-woman-show, Anna explores issues of
community, character and diversity, ultimately exposing the American
justice system that, she argues, pushes young people of colour who live
in poverty out of the classroom and eventually into prison.
Anna dissects the issues at play by taking on several different characters in a series of monologues. First we hear of Freddie Gray’s death at the hands of the Baltimore police, for which Anna becomes a news reporter and later Freddie’s friend. For each character Anna plays, she seems to fully embody the role. This makes for an impassioned, extremely varied performance. The only criticism would be that in delivering the monologues, Anna can be so swept up in the character she’s playing and the task of delivering their thoughts authentically, that in moments, the audience can fall behind. But this is certainly countered by the incredibly powerful scenes – such as when the audience become the guests at Freddie’s funeral and are so moved by the powerful sermon that they begin to cheer.
The play flows between locations across the US and we hear a harrowing account of a teacher in Stockton, CA, whose class of six-year-olds have all been affected by gun violence. We also hear about older students, who see their life options as prison or death, and whose only life goal is to still be alive by the time they’re 25. Meanwhile over in South Carolina, we see appalling video footage of a girl being roughly thrown from her desk at school by an on-site security guard for refusing to give up her phone in class.
Notes From the Field is emotionally-charged, chilling (achieved particularly well through the real footage projected onto the back wall), but also touching and at times extremely humorous. The geese episode is particularly funny, as Anna takes on the role of a protective, Hispanic mother whose geese expose her teenage children’s behaviour. This is a powerful piece of theatre and a passionate, effective exposé of race and class injustices still prevalent in the US today.
|What||Notes from the Field, Royal Court review|
|Where||Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London, SW1W 8AS | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Sloane Square (underground)|
13 Jun 18 – 23 Jun 18, Times vary
|Website||Click here for more information and tickets|