You’ve met everyone in Anthem, even if you’ve managed to ignore them; the cleaning lady from the end of the line, on her way to clean inner-city real estate; the mouthy group of kids who seem to think they are the only ones in the train; the Greek grandmother; the single mum with the grubby, whinging child; the tin-rattler and the racist.
Andrew Bovell’s Uncensored makes them into a chorus of individuals sharing one space, found comments appearing in random mouths. Meanwhile, specific characters emerge from the chorus to stake out their own narratives.
Melissa Reeves introduces Loki and Lisa, two low-paid workers driven to desperate measures by the endless struggle.
Patricia Cornelius turns an uncomfortable meeting between two women, the smartly-dressed Elaine and her former cleaning lady, Chi, into a contemplation of everyday misogyny and gender-based violence.
Christos Tsiolkas portrays three angry, down-at-heel youths, on their way to meet their successful brother, who is visiting Australia from Europe.
Meanwhile, Charity, a busker with a sensational voice, is ever-present, ever ignored as she struggles to be seen, to be heard, to get paid.
The splicing together of multiple stories inevitably makes for some bumpy moments, with the prologue and epilogue set on the Eurostar feeling particularly out of place.
The joins, however, are smoothed over with Irine Vela’s eloquent score, Resistance, and by the simple but versatile design (Marg Howell) and lighting (Paul Jackson).
Anthem is tough but compelling, and while it probably doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know, it makes us notice things we habitually ignore.
Above all, it is a portrait of the tangled, amorphous mess of today.
As the elderly Greek mother says, almost wistfully recalling her wartime childhood, “the enemy was clear then. We knew who the enemy was. Now it’s not so simple.”