Emotional and Innovative - Amelia Anonymous Review

Amelia Anonymous is a massive achievement in independent theatre production. The show is Virag Dombay’s second original work presented as part of Anywhere Festival, and represents a very ambitious escalation since last year. Dombay is the producer, writer, and leading actor of the piece, an impressive feat when managing a team of fifteen other creatives. Both she and the director Marianne Chan should be commended for seeing this show to completion.

Amelia is the heart of the production, and her role is fully realised. Dombay’s engaging portrayal of her inner turmoil is very watchable, and the moments of levity come across as extremely authentic.  However, the ultimate nuances of Dombay’s acting prowess are perhaps lost in the live medium, except for the particularly observant viewer. Her intricate expressions, whispers and side glances all add some much needed nuance, but most often they’re simply lost in the confusion.

In contrast, Jack Sinclair’s role as Amelia’s little brother Elliot is almost too much to contain within the small stage space. His energy is infectious, and the genuine depiction of a younger sibling is heart-warming to behold. Amelia Anonymous is an appropriate reminder that child actors must not be relegated solely to children’s theatre. Dombay’s fostering of young talent is commendable, and Chan’s ability to direct his theatrical personality is clear.

The rest of the cast is functional, but is given little room to explore the same depths. Dallas Fogarty, Lizzie Ann, and Samuel McGown, are given very little room to craft interesting performances. They are all charming in their roles, and though there are frequently hints at something greater emerging in the family’s dynamic, these characters are little more than plot devices in Amelia’s narrative.

The standout aspect of the production is Adam Charlton’s lighting design, and features some of the more innovative uses of auxiliary performers in recent memory. More than half the cast play as the main character’s “Thoughts”, and each are armed with colourful handheld flashlights, which are used in lieu of stage lighting. Their use is inspired, and the slick choreography is both efficient and effective in communicating tone, and creates the sense of a set in the absence of an actual construction. In this way, Amelia Anonymous is most exciting in the ways it strays from classic theatre conventions.

The underlining story is emotionally vivid, and though the creatives never identify explicitly with the themes of mental illness and anxiety within young people, it’s an insightful exploration. However, at times the pacing is frantic, and otherwise effective scenes move by too quickly to accumulate tension. There are moments that feel overwritten, while others are brilliant in their subtlety. This leads to a show that occasionally feels disorganised, often doesn’t care to explain itself, but succeeds as a character study.

Amelia Anonymous is a commendable achievement, as this is by far one of the most impressively produced shows of the festival. The aspects where improvement is required stand out against its best moments, but it represents the beginning of something great. Virag Dombay has created a heartfelt and emotional journey that will touch a lot of audiences, and it’s clear the subject matter is close to the heart of the creatives. Audiences should look forward to when this show returns in the future.