Universal history lacks revolutionary dynamic

Elizabeth Davis 26 January 2008

Anthropology, ADC Theatre, 23rd-26th January, 23:00

Reviewer Elizabeth Davis

3 Stars

There is nothing pretentious about Anthropology, written and directed by Tom Hensby: it didn’t pretend to be anything other than what it was: ‘four actors and a bed-sheet’. In the absence of a plot, the play was concerned with re-enacting key moments in the development of mankind – from the moment man first made tools, to the invention of the telephone; from the moment sails rendered rowing obsolete, to the point where man inexplicably started doing it for “fun”. In the current Cantabridgian dramatic climate, this show is quite a breath of fresh air. The four cast members (Lowri Amies, Rob Frimston, Edward Rowett and Rachel Thorpe) performed the somewhat quirky script with unassailable energy and created an engaging and interesting production.

That being said, however enthusiastic my support for new projects at the ADC, it has to be said that there is nothing revolutionary about Anthropology and it is an incredibly tiring production to watch. Despite starting with the story of a prehistoric fish struggling to reach land, this production has only one speed: break-neck, a few more pauses for breath, or indeed a few cuts, would have been welcome. I also refuse to believe that quite so many of the world’s most important inventions came from Germany, which is the impression the audience is left with as a result of the number of German accents in attendance.

There are some genuinely funny moments, though: the invention of gunpowder and the subsequent fall of the ‘wall of social hierarchy’ produced one of the biggest laughs of the evening (‘I’ve been rendered obsolete’) and there were very few ideas which weren’t witty or engrossing, including a sketch introducing the lesser known Wright brothers. The sheer enthusiasm of the four cast members ensures that Anthropology is never dull, even if a little predictable at times; in short, there are worse ways to spend an evening. More projects like this one could pave the way for some truly innovative theatre in Cambridge.