Anna & The Annadroids: Memoirs of a Robot Girl
nytheatre.com review by Loren Noveck
August 18, 2011
Mixing ground and aerial dance with multimedia animation and projections into a piece of “futuristic performance art,” Anna and the Annadroids: Memoirs of a Robot Girl uses video and animation to tell the story of a “living robot” called Anna who is starring in a series of ad campaigns for Amerifluff, a totalizing corporation that seems to sell everything from cell phones to sex toys, and run the credit cards too. Anna has been taught to experience human emotions by way of microchips, but her emotions are actually getting in the way of her work as a “model”—and her creators are about to reprogram her.
As a solo dance work, Anna and the Annadroids exploits the interface between technology and movement in fascinating ways. In certain sections, Sullivan’s live movement is mirrored by an army of silhouettes dancing on the projection screen, and in others, her aerialist work is videotaped live and projected behind her. The intersection and interweaving of video and performance enhances both, and adds visual interest to performer-director-writer-choreographer Anna Sullivan’s considerable strengths as a dancer—an interestingly staccato movement quality, beautiful hands and feet. The aerial work (on both rope and silk) is a little more tentative but still elegant and engaging.
But as a scripted piece of narrative theatre or even performance art, the piece has a lot of problems. The storytelling, especially the animated segments (which themselves are often stylistically a lot of fun, with a kind of punk-pop quality and bright, stark colors), isn’t well integrated with the movement, and the dialogue sections that are performed live feel almost incidental. The aerial work, although lovely to watch, feels very disconnected from Anna the Annadroid’s story. Transitions between scenes are very awkward (and also all involve overly elaborate costume changes). The underlying content and themes touch on dysfunctional relationships; women’s commodification by popular culture; pop culture’s focus on both sex and money—and all of this feels more than a little trite in 2011, a little like it’s come from a Women’s Studies 101 curriculum, but not given either strong emotional content or strong character development.
In short, I think that in both writing and staging, the piece would have benefited enormously from some collaborative input; Sullivan may be filling a few too many key roles here. A director’s perspective would be invaluable, certainly, and possibly an additional writer as well to help focus the ideas and craft the shape of the show. There’s some beautiful movement work here, but a lot of the other elements fall short.