Much like the conversation surrounding the social issues it endeavors to address, This is For You, Anna presents a complicated and sometimes disjointed set of ideas for its viewer.
The drama is loosely based around the story of Marianne Bachmeier, a mother who, in 1981, strode into a German courtroom for the trial of her seven-year-old daughter’s alleged murderer and shot him seven times. The accused, Klaus Grabowski, was a neighbour of the family with a spotted criminal record that included a prior accusation of sexual abuse against children.
Grabowski claimed that, in her mother’s absence, Anna had approached his home searching for companionship and attempted to seduce him before threatening to tell her parents that the man, 28 years her senior, had molested her. In a supposed fit of rage, Grabowski strangled the girl to death.
Originally penned by Suzanne Khuri, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Banuta Rubess, and Maureen White, the play’s action flows through a series of scattered vignettes brimming with vibrant imagery.
An otherwise barren stage is hugged on either side by clotheslines displaying one white garment after another; in the back, at centre stage, stands a refrigerator. The scene is filled with motifs of domesticity and expressions of femininity in the home, at work, and in society generally.
Each of the women on stage transitions from one character to the next as the progression of the plot demands, though sometimes to the befuddlement of the audience. What the performance might lack in a clear narrative, however, it most certainly makes up for in powerful commentary. Through the story of Anna and her troubled mother, the talents of Claudia Carino, Lesley Robertson, Amaka Umeh, and Melissa Williams are free to explore the multidimensional roles women play in society both then and now.
As mothers, daughters, sisters, and employees, the talented cast invites the audience to bear witness to the everyday struggles of women who are constantly objectified and commodified by men. Heartwarming scenes of Bachmeier telling stories to her young daughter are punctuated by stinging reminders of the social realities many women face in the form of vicious, abusive whispers in public and private.
The play, as well as the following discussion period, focuses on themes of victim blaming in instances of sexual assault, pay equity for women in the workforce, and the state of social support for abuse victims.
The fact that such a tragic story could possibly make for compelling theatre is entirely dependent on the play’s symbolic importance to the feminist movement. For the questions it poses and the injustices it exposes, This is For You, Anna represents an ambitious experiment bent on challenging audiences and social attitudes alike.