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Review: Hanna, at Arcola Theatre

Electric performance from solo cast member Sophie Khan Levy in modern-day tale of new motherhood

11 January, 2018 — By Sabrina Dougall

Sophie Khan Levy in Hanna. Photo: Robert Workman

“THERE she was talking to me and being really nice and I’m just thinking: wow you’re a lot fatter than me, so you know, at least there is something I am better than you at…”

Hanna tells a young mum’s very unorthodox experience of having her first child – then finding out the shocking test results that would change everything.

Candid and compelling, Sam Potter’s modern-day tale of new motherhood will draw you in as if living the story yourself.

British-Turkish Hanna, 21, with an accent matching the east London playhouse to a T, is quickly abandoned by her partner as the pair struggle to cope with an unbearable hidden truth three years after their daughter’s birth.

Reading the play-text, Hanna doesn’t feel like it should work, yet performed live, the show is electric. On the first night of its UK tour, which will take the show to Exeter, Liverpool and Cardiff, Papatango’s production packed out the intimate basement space. Solo cast member Sophie Khan Levy executes a word-perfect retelling of Hanna’s emotionally tumultuous experience of raising her toddler as a single mum and the shocking discovery about her.

Stage manager Roisin Symes told Review the simple staging of a black chair, water table and round red rug are set up to remind the audience of a TED Talk – rather appropriate, given the overall uplifting feel of the show. The ruby-coloured carpet beneath Hanna’s feet is redolent of the womb, of protection, blood and risk – all of which surface during the story, but not in expected ways.

Naturalistic speech belies the well-made plot, as Khan Levy intonates emotional nuance with confidence and aplomb. With a spark in her eye, she feelingly relates the tale, drawing occasional hoots of laughter from her listeners with well-timed emphasis. The 70-minute run-time flies by – definitely worth a watch.

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